Today was what my teenage son would describe as a ‘meh’ day. To those of us unfamiliar with this terminology, it means it was not great. Nothing major happened to make me feel this way – I can only put it down to the realisation that I have at least another 4 months of chemotherapy, followed by continuing Herceptin injections, 5 weeks’ worth of radiotherapy and hormone tablets for the next 10 years. Which leads me on to the question of when will my life ever be normal again? And what is normality anyway?
I have been able to remain very positive so far throughout my cancer treatment but today I felt the closest to tears that I have felt in this entire time. I was hankering after my old life, to just get up and go to work, to do something useful, to feel normal. Then it struck me that what I considered to be normal before may never be what life is like after cancer treatment. In fact, going by what many people on the other side of cancer treatment have said, it is very unlikely that my life will ever be the same again. That makes me sad.
So part of the struggles I am facing at the moment includes finding a new normal. The longer this search goes on, the more I have come to the conclusion that there won’t be a singular new normal.
Currently, normal means getting through each chemo cycle the best I can whilst trying to do at least some of the things that I enjoy. Even that is hard as I am limited to only certain hobbies, mainly those which involve not leaving the house. To be completely truthful, normality during week 1 of chemo means battling every side effect that the treatment throws at me and spending a lot of time huddled up under a blanket. During week 2, normality means feeling reasonably well enough to get up and go out, but knowing that going anywhere crowded puts me at risk of infection. Finally, normality during week 3 means being able to go out but still always being vulnerable to picking up germs – not that different to week 2. In a nutshell, normality means leading a very restricted life, for now anyway.
After chemotherapy, there will be a different new normal which will no doubt involve side effects from Herceptin and radiotherapy. Then after that, the hormone treatment will impact on what is normal for me. At some point, it would be nice to think that I can go back to work and reclaim some of my life back. How that will turn out alongside all of this treatment remains to be seen. I guess I just need to focus on what is happening now: one day at a time.
As I said at the beginning, I was just having a bit of a down day today and I am sure tomorrow will be better. So, how do you cope when you have days like this? Well, I reached out to the Twitter community first – fellow cancer patients who understand exactly what it feels like to have a ‘meh’ day. I wasn’t sure at first whether this would make me feel any better since I don’t know any of these people personally, however I was in for a pleasant surprise. The comments were supportive and kind, and there were some helpful tips to enable me to face this temporary blip. Next I shared my feelings with the Breast Cancer forum. Again, I was touched by the caring comments from my group of online friends who are all going through chemotherapy treatment. I was already on my way to feeling a lot happier.
My day eventually turned out a lot better still when I received a surprise visit from a friend from work. She brought me 2 hampers, filled with lovely gifts from all the staff. The timing of this could not have been more perfect! This totally cheered me up and I now feel I am ready to face tomorrow, not to mention my next chemo treatment, head on.