As usual, my blog needs to start with an apology. It’s been far too long since I sat down with my laptop and did something other than watching cute animals and true crime videos on YouTube or following ridiculously attractive people I don’t know, living unbelievably enviable lifestyles on Instagram. A very valuable use of my time I’m sure you’ll agree but, some pretty big things are going on in the world just now and it’s having an impact on each of our lives so I feel ready to get back into it.
Unless you’ve been living under a very big, very mossy rock, you’ll know all about the coronavirus. What began as a viral outbreak has, in less than 4 months, turned into a global pandemic the likes of which few people alive today have ever seen.
Now, I don’t want to waffle on about the virus itself. There are many other factual articles, videos, blogs etc. written by people far more informed people than myself. What I’d like to focus on is how the pandemic is affecting those in my sadly not very unique position. Living with terminal cancer throughout a viral outbreak of this magnitude has posed some very frightening questions and forced us to make some truly unfair decisions.
At the end of March, I went to see my oncologist to discuss changing my treatment plan to allow me more ‘protection’ from the virus. My chemotherapy leaves my immune system pretty battered after each round and, if I were to get an infection or catch a virus, it would be very difficult, without serious medical intervention, to fight it off. I’m at an even higher risk as I have asthma and have been hospitalised with pneumonia on more occasions than I care to remember. Because of this, we came to the decision to completely stop my chemotherapy for 2 months while the pandemic was at its peak. An understandable move but also very risky (and very scary). Many cancer patients have felt abandoned during this time and I can absolutely understand why. They feel as though their illness has been swept one side to allow more space to focus on the pandemic. During my chemo break I felt consumed by thoughts of my tumours left unchecked, free to grow wild like ivy around a tree. It’s very hard to push these invasive, negative thoughts to the side. I talked to my oncologist about these fears and we agreed that I’d restart my treatment but at a reduced dose. This has been much better for my mental health and feels like a decision based on my existing illness and not just the possibility of contracting Covid-19. The fear hasn’t gone completely. How could it?
We are confined to our homes, shielding ourselves not only from illness but from all the people and things that we love. I’m not even supposed to visit my parents who live next door to us and I’m used to seeing every day. It’s horrible. I’m very lucky to be going through this with my darling husband (and our two dogs and a kitty cat). I can’t imagine what it would be like to live alone. I genuinely don’t think my mental health could cope. Steph keeps me going, as always, and I absolutely adore him for it. I try not to give in to the pangs of self pity but it’s tough. I have a lot of time to think and I’m mainly thinking of all the time we are losing by sitting still, waiting for something to happen. I do have some self pity days but I try my best to let them have their moment, put them aside and then drag myself out of bed and do something. Even if that something is just tidying up a bit, sitting outside to read a book, writing or learning something new. An unfortunate side effect of cancer treatment is having a very short attention span and an absolutely terrible memory so this makes the ‘being productive’ thing a bit tricky.
As we have been living like this for some time now, I feel as though I’m getting to grips with things and finding out what helps. I’ve written a little list of advice on how to get through this very trying time:
- Do NOT allow yourself to be made to feel as though you are not good enough when you look at the amazing achievements of all these influencers or ‘friends’ you only really know by what they post online. This is not real life. I doubt the wake up every day, with the sun pouring through the window of their immaculate home before they do a quick sun salutation, followed by a pinterest worthy pile of pancakes prepared by their adorable, perfectly trained children who are carbon copies of their perma-stylish, dressed for TV parents. I don’t believe it and frankly feel tired at the thought of how much preparation went into documenting those all those ‘candid’ photos which were taken for the soul purpose of a few likes and a lot of self congratulation. Most of us live in out pyjamas and only get dressed and brush our hair when absolutely necessary. Remember that.
- Try to follow some form of a routine. This is much easier said than done if you are not working but even eating dinner at the same time every day counts.
- Allow yourself to have a bad day. If you feel sad or overwhelmed and just feel like curling up into a little ball in your bed then do it. Trying to ignore it will just drag it out longer. Once you’ve had your day, make an effort to get back to living life again.
- Write things down. This is my ‘homework’ from my counsellor. Just take a piece of paper and a pen and write. Anything. It can be single words or formed sentences, it doesn’t really matter. Just write whatever you are thinking and let it for out. It’s very therapeutic and reading it back can be quite enlightening! I really enjoy writing and find it helps focus my thoughts and make sense (sometimes) of my emotions.
- Have fun! It’s very easy to forget that, despite things being tough, fun can still be had. You don’t beed to be doing something productive at all times. You are allowed, no, encouraged to find the fun in things.
I’d love to hear what creative, fun things you’ve been doing to stay sane/pass the time/tire your children out to give you a moment of peace? I think we are in this for a good while longer and we need to adapt to this new normal as well as we possibly can. A huge part of that is staying sociable. I know this is very difficult for a lot of us but if we continue to reach out (not physically… 2 metres please!) to each other, we’ll get through this. Just think of the reunions we’ll have on the other side!Take care. Keep well. Stay in touch.