The Tunnel

The Light at the End

It’s been almost 18 months since I found the lump in my breast that statistically was unlikely to be cancer but unfortunately was.

I wrote about each step in the process that followed, initially to keep my mind trained on what was happening now and what would happen next. One step, then the next, doing that got me through treatment and beyond for a while, until things got difficult.

I promised myself that after treatment I would not allow cancer to have more of my life than it had already claimed. I promised myself that I would do what needed to be done to reduce my risk of recurrence.

This involved doing 3 things. Firstly, losing weight and maintaining that. Secondly, practicing yoga and finally participating in a survivor group.

For the first 6 months after treatment I was doing all these things. I had returned to work but 6 months after chemo my body was still suffering and work became really tough. I was exhausted and in physical distress. I resigned from the job that I had been doing for the last 4 years. A job I was good at and had enjoyed but I wasn’t coping and I felt the only option for me was to resign. I started a new job shortly after and as the months passed I felt much better physically but the new job did not turn out as I had hoped and I found myself working longer hours than I had previously.

This in turn resulted in a struggle to lose weight and the yoga ceased also. I felt like a total disaster. Not only had I failed in all the promises I had made to myself but I had introduced a stressful job into my life leading to more pressure.

I started to see a psychologist at my local cancer centre and I am so glad that I did.

She could see that I was stuck in my recovery and miserable. She could see that my thinking took me round and round in circles like a water eddy caught in a river bank. She could see that I would occasionally get emotional while talking about my experience then shut down that emotion and try to dismiss it or rationalise it.

It took about 3 months but finally I realised that the job I was doing was the cause of unnecessary stress and once more… I resigned. I felt nothing but relief. I have been making myself do things, difficult things in order to get back to ‘normal’ life. I think I have finally realised that my life is different now and that no good will come from denying that fact.

Accepting that fact does not mean I am living a life defined by cancer, it means that I decide how my life is going to be and I make that decision based on the realities. Therefore it makes no sense to working longer hours when fatigue is still a problem for me.

I have been in a dark place, a long tunnel but I think finally I can see light at the end of it. That light has allowed me to make sense of feelings that were confusing to me as I fumbled in the dark. And finally I think I understand that I need to listen to what my body is telling me and treat it with compassion and care. I feel stronger as a result of acknowledging my weakness. I feel hopeful once more and accepting of what is and what will be. I can finally embrace my unseen future and be at peace with the acceptance of that.

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