Today, 11th October 2018 marks three months since my final chemotherapy session and I’m surprised how quickly that time has passed. Life has definitely returned to “normal”, with nursery runs, household chores and everything that makes up life, and it is a joy not to have to go to a hospital every week but what has changed.
Everyone says cancer changes you, but does it? and why does it? Big questions that at this milestone I find myself thinking about.
Firstly there are the changes that are as a result of no longer having cancer, chronic anaemia or chemotherapy. Things like having more energy, not getting short of breath walking up my stairs, being able to walk to pick up my son, being able to complete the basic household chores in an hour rather then a day and getting more sleep. My steroid face is reducing and cheekbones are returning. I feel the cold now, something that after months of night sweats or hot flushes, was a lovely sensation, such joy in having a cuddle to warm you up. The residual effects are not completely gone , but as I undertake my post cancer rehab programme they continue to improve. Some of the changes are also being imposed on me a little too but that’s okay, it all helps. For example, I would always need a nap or lie down during the day, however now I can get through the days without one. The fact that my toddler has decided he doesn’t like naps anymore either, helps with achieving this one. At least he held out till I was in remission though, I have to be grateful for that.
Some things that have returned I didn’t even realise I had lost along the way, but as they relight in me and bring a smile to my face, you realise just how long and how hard a slog life has really been for the past few years. When did you last sing to a song in the car, or break into a impromptu dance in the living room when a classic tune comes on the radio….as I started to feel better after treatment I noticed that I started to do these again. I had a conscious memory the first time, after being treated for my lymphoma of driving my car when a classic dance song from my youth came on the radio, I wound down the window, turned the song up and started singing and bobbing along to it. It was then that it hit me. I couldn’t remember the last time I had done that. And in fact I couldn’t remember ever doing that since having my little man, which also coincides with becoming unwell. You may think, that I just cant remember it but I now do it quite a lot, as I always use to, because I love to sing and dance along to the tunes (my other half doesn’t like me doing this so much though 🙂 ). I am also loving being able to teach my little man some dance moves. It is a blessing that I am able to do this once more, as relying on his dad, whose best dance move is the guns, would otherwise be setting him up for disaster on that front. So it is great to be able to show him the way.
But what about the profound stuff. Initially after treatment ended, and there was no more hospital appointments, it did feel a bit like being thrown off the end of a cliff. What do I do now, where do I go from here, questions I have had to try and work out the answers or at least a work in progress for. I have heard a number of people talk about finding their new “normal” after cancer and this is definitely what I feel I am doing. Yes, I have returned to the previous “normal” activities but there are other components now that are coming in to my new “normal”. I am becoming more conscious about my health generally, I want to be as healthy as I can be, not only because I want to enjoy my time with my family and friends and be able to undertake anything that I want to be able to do but also because I want to give my body the best possible opportunity and chance to conceive again in the future. As a busy mum, just like many mums this is always a challenge. But one thing I have finally realised is that I am important. I have to do some things for myself sometimes because by doing that, and ensuring that I am fit and healthy, makes me more available to those around me that need me. Self-care is definitely a work in progress for me, but I am learning.
When it comes to my diet, my health consciousness is manifesting itself by becoming more adventurous with foods, especially vegetables and trying new recipes and combinations. For example halloumi and beetroot as a combination is rather yummy in a salad. I am ensuring that I have at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. None of these things are rocket science and are things that we all know we should do, but its also really easy to slip into bad habits and they become your norm. Now is about establishing this as my and my families new norm. I am consciously looking at walking options over driving options and trying to increase my physical activity levels, and I want to go out in the rain!! Before if it was raining, it would be rather difficult to motivate myself to go out as is the case I am sure for a lot of us. But now I don’t want to be stuck indoors, I want to get outside and see the beauty of the world and I want to share this with my little man and family. I am currently on a mission to find good outdoor forest walks for the winter months that we can do even in the rain or snow and can keep a toddler engaged.
But interestingly alongside my increased health consciousness, is a desire to be less wasteful. I increasingly try to ensure that I use up everything in my fridge and cupboards and throw away less, which also helps feed into my more inventive cooking. I try to recycle more and use waste to make toys or use for craft activities with little man. Maybe this isn’t a cancer specific thing, maybe this is just an awareness generally but it is definitely forming part of my new normal. I also don’t waste my energy or sweat the small stuff. I have actually felt less stressed in the last few months regarding general life things then ever before. Things just don’t seem to get to me as much as they would have done previously. Maybe because they just don’t seem that important in the grand scheme of things. I would never describe myself as anti-social but I have defiantly become more sociable and appreciate spending time with my family and friends. It feels important now to make memories and share fun times with those you love and care about. I am currently in the middle of organising our first Halloween party, if it is a success maybe we will make it an annual occurrence. Alongside this, how and what I want to spend my money on has changed. I have less of a desire to by material things, and greater desire to spend money on doing things with those I care about. Don’t get me wrong I love a bag like most women, but we buy a lot of things that just aren’t necessary.
So at three months, I feel positive about the future. I try and keep the reoccurrence demon at the back of my mind as much as possible. He isn’t currently locked in a box, but hopefully over time he will be. I am proud of how far I have come in the last three months, and for now, I continue to find my way through my new “normal”, trying to establish a positive balance of self care, family care and fun because we only have one life, and I need to make it my best life.