I made a conscious decision to start my story only after I had finished active treatment of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. I want this to be a story of recovery, of life after. I want this to be a good news story. But it can’t be that without acknowledging what I’ve gone through and where I am now.
I finished radiotherapy earlier this week, my final step in eight months of active treatment, and I am not in a good place. Everyone talks about treatment fatigue, but until I lived it, I could never imagine. I sleep all night but still can’t get out of bed. I occasionally shower and then am so exhausted that I need to lie down again. Basic tasks become overwhelming. I coach myself constantly to get anything done, “just keep going” is my mantra. The most consistent advice I’ve received is to stay active, so I drag myself outside, by the corner my head is too heavy to hold up, my shoulders have slumped forward and the tears start behind my sunglasses. I have to sit at the first park bench I come to.
With the exhaustion is the pain. My chest is hot to touch and electrical pulses push through from the inside. The skin is weak and tender and anything touching it hurts. I hold my arm away from my body until my shoulder aches.
I’ve advised others in my online support groups to breathe. It’s the only thing we can control at times. So as I sit on the park bench, I do as my therapist says. I ground both feet, I loosen my upper body, I close my eyes and I picture my peaceful place as I breathe slowly in through my nose and out through my mouth. It works. I control the hysteria and hyperventilation. But as I calm, I’m not sure of point of being calm. Sure, I’m no longer sobbing in the park, but being calm doesn’t really help anything. It doesn’t make me come to terms with what I’ve gone through or where I am now, it doesn’t help me move forward with confidence.
I’ve been here before, after chemo finished and after surgery. My rational self knows it will get better but in this moment I am broken. I don’t know how to stand up and take that step forward.
I so desperately want this to be a good news story, but fuck it’s hard right now.