Who am I? Who am I, other than a cancer patient? Other than a bereaved mother? Other than a mother. I’ve been struggling with this question a lot recently. I don’t actually think it’s unique to a bereaved mother, or a cancer patient. I think everyone has this thought from time to time.
Cancer has an insidious way of creeping into every part of your day. Walk past a mirror – get reminded of your mortality. Your child asks you whether they’d be a good mother – get reminded you probably won’t be there to see that. Try to have some 1:1 time with your husband, get constant thoughts about all the ways your appearance has changed in the last 5 months. Turn around in the car to check on the kids and can’t breathe temporarily due to sudden abdominal pain.
It’s the everyday things it steals. The reminders. They cannot be escaped.
There’s a well known link between chemo and depression. For some reason, I’m far more comfortable talking about my anxiety issues than I am talking about my depression. Perhaps anxiety is a more acceptable mental illness. It certainly seems to be more talked about on social media platforms.
However – in my last psyc appointment it was pointed out that I was checking all the boxes for depression. I didn’t want to hear that. I’ve been there before and I don’t want to be there again.
Depression feels like you’re a passenger in a car, with no say on where you’re going, and no energy to argue with the driver. It’s helplessness and exhaustion. It’s overwhelming. It’s consuming. It feels like the less acceptable cousin of anxiety.
Depression for me is different as an adult. It’s higher functioning. Harder to spot. Like I didn’t even know I was a passenger in a car until I was told. But now I know, I’m mustering up the energy to stop the car.
See, somewhere along the way, chemo, surgery, social anxiety and covid have all combined to cause the current situation. I was self conscious of my changing body and avoided leaving the house. I was scared of catching covid and avoided leaving the house. I have low energy and fitness after surgery and chemo, so didn’t have the energy to leave the house. I didn’t leave the house, which feeds into the depressive self talk. Which increased the depression, leaving me with no motivation to leave the house.
Today, I challenged my anxiety and left the house. I find myself back at home, after having my anxiety reinforced. I feel like challenging the depressive and anxious self talk is an uphill battle. While out on an extremely short trip (not far from a long drop) I STILL managed to have urgency issues and need to come back home. I missed the morning quality time with the girls, throwing rocks into the river, because my bowel doesn’t like me at the moment. I’m trying to do positive things for my mental health while my physical health stops it from happening. Or I’m trying to do good things for my physical health but my mental health gets in the way.
Today, for the first time, I acknowledged out loud that it feels like cancer is stealing my life.
And it just feels a bit shit.
My very last chemo is scheduled for Thursday 21st April, and then is ‘finished’ three weeks later. After that, I’ll go on to Letrozole, which will be for life. It will stop any remaining estrogen production as estrogen makes my cancer grow.
I hoping that once chemo is finished, I’ll be past the bowel issues, and depression 🤞