"If I can help somebody as I walk along, then my living shall not be in vain."
Nobody wakes up thinking that this is the day that they will be diagnosed with cancer. Over the past eight years, I have seen my life turned upside down, inside out as I struggled with a cancer diagnosis, something which is abhorrent to us all. Whilst evaluating my life I have realised that it has taken directions never imagined. At the time of my diagnosis, I was at the top of my profession only a few more years to go before retirement and a planned retreat into sunnier climates having led an exhaustive professional and mentally taxing career. All planned, all laid out then travesty struck and my thoughts now lay with a doctor’s prognosis of fewer than six months to live. Cancer has not just completely ripped through my family, it has devastated it.
It’s amazing how everything can change in the blink of an eye and none of us is exempt from any of the ill-fated curve-balls that life throws our way as your world gets turned upside down. Serious illness has always been perceived as a threat to health and life. The initial reaction by most people is to shut it out of our minds and as it were, pull the bed sheet covers over our heads until everything is ok again. Under no circumstances is a material wealth of any use to us, we all are in the same boat when it comes to matters of life-limiting, ill-health and the struggle for survival against seemingly impossible odds.
Imagine this if you can, your mind and body subjected to regular spasmodic contraction jolts from the metastatic disease. Your body clenching and twitching in disbelief at the pain it is being subjected to, as you are left regularly clutching pain relief medications in a bid to temporarily ward off this pain. Your family subjected to watching a loved one going through this experience in front of their eyes and you wondering how mentally scarred, are they? Where in life’s chapter of survival does it say medium size pain is all you will ever suffer? That your loved ones will not be affected or subjected to seeing another loved one suffer in front of them the pained looks in their eyes destroying you, the cruellest of all forms of torture I say.
When your own life is threatened by a cancerous disease your sense of empathy is blunted by a terrible, selfish hunger for survival. It was sad that I was suffering so much and there was nothing I could do about it or was there! It was then that my state of mind and body opened to the desire and hunger to survive. It was here I started to find ways and means by which to survive.
From my own introspective only those of us who are of medium physical fitness or with an endearing attitude of 'Never Ever Giving up', or engaging in a one to one spiritual relationship with an invisible entity will get through this, the worst episode of their life.
The cruellest education that I have ever had to undergo was to watch my mother suffer over a 7 year period and eventually succumb to breast cancer. Her regular facial grimace to pain and the reaction and side effects of the medication were to be my pathway many years later, but we are never prepared for unexpected life fallouts, are we?
For most of us, there is a desire and a constant struggle and tension to stay alive and keep our sanity. The struggle to survive also leads us to a minute examination of every aspect of our lives, the good, the bad and the indifferent culminating in making deals with our souls that we will do anything to keep living, anything to stop the pain, anything; for some, even a deal with the devil presents itself as a not so farfetched option. This is the extremity that we as human beings will go to in order to survive, sometimes fundamentally changing our natures and beliefs.
Most of us ask the question of how do we keep going when all the odds are stacked against us. Extremely tough life-limiting battles can be fought and overcome - when we choose to seize the moment, face our fears head-on however everyone’s journey will be different, more intent and more painful as we draw swords and duel with slayer of life, cancer. For many of us, we look for inspirational and empowering personal life stories of indispensable worth and unforgettable value.
For many of us lurking within our minds and bodies is the heart of a survivor just waiting to get out and be exposed for all to see - Courage.
Tenacity and Strength, so do not shy away from the hard times, they are your chance to shine.” I have grown in character through my own personal ill-health experiences in life and realised that life is short.
It is precious. And as such I needed to make the most of it; live your dreams do not just exist. Love life; nature, people, places and cultures...It’s amazing what’s on the other side when you really look...
Honesty compels me to admit I have had to deal with real FEAR – The fear of dying and I have felt frightened and very lonely during the months and years of this journey. I have confronted fear, real moments of fear in my fight since being diagnosed.
You cannot go through cancer without confronting moments of fear and anguish. Even in the moments of Loneliness something spiritually came to remind me that I should keep going on and on and not give up.
Many times my mental state of mind was tested and tested again without me fully understanding that the places where I found myself were not of my own doing. The mental health problems that arise as a result of cancer are too often sidelined. It is suggested that one in three people with cancer, will experience a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety disorders before during or after treatment. For many of us, we are left to cope with mental health problems alone.
I felt sad, at a loss, because of the health concerns that I faced and the life that I had before I was diagnosed with cancer. There have been so many moments that I have had very little energy, tired or lacked appetite, all this in the blink of an eye, for some these feelings, go away or lessen over time for others they languish daily.
I have never received support or advice from health professionals about managing my mental state of mind with regards to cancer, in fact, I was never informed that there was a possibility of any potential mental health problems that could arise – other than that gained from fellow patients in the likes of social media cancer chat rooms – I ask you! I say from diagnosis to post-treatment and beyond person-centred support must be made available at all steps of the cancer journey.
The clinical drug trial program which I had undergone was carried out in a strictly managed clinical environment. This did not cater much for my own feelings and was far from sympathetic to my needs... Many a day I felt like I was falling off a cliff edge, even up to this day.
However, it is as you venture further into your journey that you realise that not all storms come to disrupt your life, some actually come to clear your path... Whatever Cancer throws your way... (you had better be ready to deal with it)