So today, 10 weeks after my final chemotherapy session, I packed up all the drugs that have seen me through the last 9 months and took them to my local pharmacy.
I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get rid of them. There they have been sat on my dressing table, taking up valuable room and there they have been the whole time, since starting on this journey. But for last few days I have been looking at them and thinking I need to get rid of them and today I did it. I wonder if in my subconscious I wasn’t quite ready to do it before, because maybe it hadn’t sunk in that I didn’t need them now. I think there remained this underlying belief that my consultant had been wrong, and that I was going to get the phone call telling me that they misread the scan and that I needed to resume treatment. But as the time goes on, I am accepting that this isn’t going to happen, and to essentially box up the past 9 months and truly move on to the next phase, I needed to box up the drugs that provide me with a daily reminder.
The psychological impact of having cancer is vast and multifaceted. When you are told that your scans are positive and that you no longer have cancer, everyone expects that you should be singing from the rooftop and full of joy. And I agree at face value that is what you would expect it to be like. But it’s not, or not for me. Do you know the first thing I did when I got in the car after receiving this good news?
In fact in those coming days and weeks, I cried more than I had ever cried through the diagnosis stage, or the treatment stage. Why? Combination of factors I believe. Firstly, the realisation that you have survived cancer. We all conjure up thoughts when we think of cancer, and to go from having cancer to being a cancer survivor is monumental. The second realisation, is just how much you have held everything together and held everything inside to enable yourself to get through the treatment phase. Maybe its the fear that there may be more to come and that it could get worse, or that you don’t want to further burden those around you with extra stress or worry, undoubtedly it is an element of my personality too. Trying to comprehend the enormity of the situation and allowing yourself time and space is something I could only do after the treatment was all over. And now removing signs of my treatment is the next stage.
As I handed the box over to the pharmacist, it literally felt like a weight had risen off my shoulders (maybe that was just cos the box was so heavy). I left feeling taller, lighter and with a smile on my face. I find it strange the way, things that seem like they should be unimportant can have such a profound influence on us as humans. It isn’t always the giant gestures or experiences that leave the biggest mark on us, but sometimes the seemingly insignificant ones.