I’m almost at the end of my first round of chemotherapy. There’s a lot that has happened, and I wanted to write about my experiences, but I didn’t know where to start. So, I decided to write about one thing I’ve learned so far.
It’s hard to narrow it down to one thing though. I’ve had a lot of time in my head the past few weeks – time to ponder while I rest (so much rest). Firstly, as my hair starts to fall, I’m learning that I don’t need my hair to be confident. I just need a smile (“you’re never fully dressed without a smile!”). I’m even partly looking forward to the adventure of it. Secondly, listen to your body. Let your body tell you what it needs. If you are ever so still and quiet, your body will direct you – like, when you’re a brand new parent and the only way you can learn to look after your newborn is to listen to him/her. Finally, nothing is permanent. Things and moments come and go. What is happening now will not necessarily be happening this time next year.
It’s the final point that I will write about today: the idea of permanence, and everything being temporary.
I keep drawing on what I learned when Charlotte died. I had such an urge to feel joy again, and I was terrified I would never be happy ever again. Eventually I realised that grief does not rest so heavily on our shoulders for ever. Over time, we learn to bear the burden and it becomes part of who we are. When we can let it be there, and accept that it is there, then we can feel joy. It takes time, but it does not take for ever.
And so, for me, this stage of my life won’t last for ever. Chemotherapy, for me, will not last for ever. The radiation will be short term. The hair loss will not be permanent. I will not always feel tired and sick. Even the actual cancer is gone. I will eventually feel like myself again. Except maybe a better version of myself: stronger, wiser, kinder (to me and others), more empathic and more resilient.
It helps so much to think of things as fleeting moments. During mindfulness meditation, I visualise my thoughts as leaves floating by on a river, or as bubbles rising in the air. I think of this cancer business as one of those leaves, or a rainbow bubble rising towards the heavens. And then, it pops. And it is finished. And I am well, for however long I will be well for. And my hair grows back, and my children stop worrying (I hate to see them worry about me).
Taking things day by day is a gentle way to do it. And I take each day as it comes: if I have energy, I use it. If I need to rest, I rest. However, it is also helpful to remind myself that this is just a moment, a phase, a blip in my timeline. I am not defined by my illness. One day, it will be the story I tell. One day I will wear it like a battle wound. One day I will say that I won one of the biggest fights of my life.
And for now, it is what it is. That’s all it can be. And this too shall pass.
My love to you, thank you for reading. Please go and check your boobs.