Through Sickness and Health

For us it’s more like through sickness and health, and some more sickness, now some health, oh wait don’t forget about the sickness.

When my health is a roller coaster you can’t expect my relationship not to be. Chris and I have to not only deal with our own ever changing emotions, but then also try to tip toe and figure out each other’s. It’s not easy. We decided we needed some navigational help. So we found a couples therapist and have now been seeing her every two weeks for the past three months. What we have discovered is the way we were raised has really impacted the way we communicate and interact as a couple. When I was going through chemotherapy and surgeries it was almost easier for us. Our only focus was my physical health so we had no time to really examine our mental health. Even though I am still physically sick, it is not as noticeable and doesn’t affect our day to day, so now our mental health is disrupting our relationship.

It is a day by day process because our internal issues cannot be resolved overnight. My own mental health changes minute by minute, so if I have a hard time with it how can I expect anything different from him. Going to counselling is not showing weakness in our relationship but it shows strength. The challenges with cancer doesn’t end when you are no longer receiving treatment, in my case it feels like it is just beginning.

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Foot In Mouth

Something new happened to me in one of my groups the other day. I was new to this group at the cancer centre I go to, so I had to introduce myself, and then in turn they all did the same. I am so used to telling people that I haven’t met my story, that I can sum it up in under two minutes. I remember before it would take me so long to tell it, going through every detail. Then I realized that all the details were not needed and I could just skip to the main event. 

I have stage 4 colon cancer, I have had 3 surgeries and 12 rounds of chemo, I am now waiting on a scan coming up to tell me if I am cancer free or not. Actually, that is probably under two minutes. 

The social worker leading the group asked me to explain a little more about my surgeries and chemo. I let everyone know that the first two surgeries were extremely hard, and I am still recovering from them. My abdonimal section will probably never work the same again. I am in discomfort daily. I then explained how I had 4 rounds of chemo, then surgery, then another 9 and had to stop. The chemo was horrible and was hurting me more than it was helping so I chose to stop. 

After my complaining was over, the man next to me introduced himself. He was 33, stage 4 colon cancer as well. Then he went on to say he was diagnosed a year ago, still had not had a single surgery, and as had 26 chemo treatments so far. 

“Shit.” I said out loud. “I should not have been complaining.” He won the poker hand.

You may be wondering how he can have 26 rounds and still be out and about. Well when they give you chemotheraphy in order to help your cancer stay at bay, and know you will be on it for a long time, your dose is not as strong. It is still horrible, don’t get me wrong, but it is not the heavy dose that would happen if they knew the number of rounds you would be having. 

When I asked him who is surgeon was he let me know he didn’t really have one. He met a man when he was first diagnosed who told him he was inoperable, and that was it. He took that response and just moved on. He never got a second opinion……

I quickly grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled down the name and number of my surgeon.

“I’m not saying he will be able to do anything, but he worked miracles on me. The worst he can say is no, and then you are no better off than you are now.”

Last I saw him he had just had a CT scan, and him and his oncologist were speaking about sending it to my surgeon. 

No More Rules

My surgery is now 17 days away and I still have not come to terms with the fact that I am sick. I should probably start working on that. My therapist says it is normal, which is good I guess? I know waking up in a hospital bed with multiple tubes coming out of me will be a rude awakening. Therefore I would like to wrap my brain around my illness before that happens. I feel like once I accept my cancer, I will be able to live my life better. Does that make sense? Since I am still partially living in denial, I feel guilty over doing certain things. Such as when people speak about work, I feel guilty for not only not working, but also do no feel like I can speak about how my day consisted of naps and swimming. Even though like most females I love shopping, I feel guilty for even spending a dime.

“That’s not what your money is for Jamie. It is for parking, hospital bills, medication and so on.” – This is the thought that runs through my head every time I buy an ice cream.

That is so boring though.

My therapist also says I should stop thinking this way. That I should do whatever makes me happy. My life should not consist of any more rules, but only life experiences. If I want to experience two McFlurry’s in one day, so be it. If I want to go to California, plan it and go. So that’s the new rule I live by, the “no rules” rule.

Normalcy

Speaking to a person completely removed from your life is a very freeing thing. I always thought it would be, and then yesterday I finally spoke to a therapist. I have been bottling up all of my sadness, anger, depression, really every emotion because I did not want others around me to feel my pain. I took two steps into the room and immediately began crying. It was such a release. I just cannot believe I had waited this long to speak to a therapist. I do not even mean this long with my diagnosis, I mean this long in my life. To be in a comfortable environment where you can say whatever is on your mind, and not be judged, feels amazing. The advice your receive in return seems to also be bang on. Everyone should do it. Even if it is only once. Even if you think you have nothing to say. It is just an open release of your mind and you come out feeling lighter.

My first round with her she explained that she feels I am seeking a sense of normalcy. Yes. That is it exactly. All I want is for everyone to act and treat me as they normally would. It is such a simple request on my end, however I feel as if it may be tough for some. I do not know what it is like on “the other side”. I only know what it is like to have cancer, but to have a close friend with cancer, I am not sure how I would react. Could I treat them as if nothing was different? Maybe. I guess it is just like playing pretend when you were a child. It does not have to be everyday, but some days I would like to pretend as if cancer does not exist in my world.