Let’s Talk

A subject I have never been ashamed to speak about is my mental health. I struggle to try and stay in a positive mood, some days more than others. Instead of reminding you of all the ways I’m fucked up, I will inform you of the ways I am helping to take care of myself.

Eating Right – Keeping a clean diet when I am having a rough day is not easy. Nothing feels better then combining my tears with a tub of ice cream. I find however that afterwards I end up feeling worse. Now not only am I sad about whatever made me cry that day, but also upset at myself for eating all that ice cream. If I stick to healthy alternatives it is one less thing I need to be down on myself for. Also, all of those beautiful nutrients keep your cells happy and healthy which is never a bad thing!

Fresh Air – Seems like an easy fix, but pulling yourself off the couch some days can be tough. Just force yourself to get up and go on a quick walk outside, or go for a drive with the windows down. Removing yourself from your current position and feeling the cool breeze on your face can make a world of a difference.

Therapy, Therapy Therapy – I cannot express enough how much therapy has, and will continue to help me. I have been going to group therapy as well as seeing a therapist one-on-one for a while, but I recently have also begun to see a couples therapist. My relationship with my husband is fantastic, however we do struggle in dealing with the emotional aftermath from everything that has gone in the past couple years. Speaking with someone is helping us communicate better when we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious. It is so easy when you are sad or angry to take it out on a loved one. I am guilty for that. She is teaching us the dance of how we fight, and ways that we can change it so that we better understand what the other person is going through. I find people are often embarrassed to admit they are attending therapy with their partner. This is the wrong perspective. There is nothing shameful for wanting the best out of your relationship. These jobs exist for a reason, because it is COMMON that couples have issues when communicating. I am very thankful that my husband was open to attending when I first asked him. He saw the improvements I have been having one-on-one, and understood how it could now help us move in a more positive direction. I have said it before and I will continue to preach it – EVERYONE can benefit from therapy.

Pets – The love of an animal is such a beautiful thing. They do not care about any of the baggage you have, and just show you unconditional love. Now, I’m not suggesting in order to achieve happiness everyone must go out and adopt a dog (although that would be amazing). If your life style does not best suit a dog, that is understandable. It takes a lot of time and effort to have a dog and it is not for everyone. If this is you, then try to go for a walk at a dog park on a weekend. Not only will you love the fresh air, but these are the best days for PUPPIES. I find my local dog parks are full of puppies on the weekends, and I just love it. Puppies are so clumsy and dopey they can put a smile on anyone’s face.

Well there you have it, just a few of the things that help me to stay sane. You are also allowed to just stay in all day and binge watch tv. There is nothing wrong with telling the rest of the world to fuck off and just sit around in your track pants. Just do it one day though, the next day you have to get up.

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Scar Tissue

I love my surgeon. The man saved my life – how could I not love him? The only thing I would change however – but I think this goes for all surgeons – they need to give WAY more information on how to proceed post operation. Of course it is awesome that you helped to save lives, but then a lot of us are left with a big nasty scar, and not a whole lot of information. Recently I was informed that the reason my stomach now looks so funny, has a lot to do with the amount of scar tissue I have. I knew this (kind of), but what I did not know is that there is actually something I can do about it. There are registered massage therapists out there who specialize in helping to break down the scar tissue underneath the skin. Over time this helps to flatten it out and allow the tissue to begin laying back to normal. Who knew!? Not I. Could I have started this process sooner? Probably not, because my entire body was so tender during chemo that I would not have been able to handle the massage. Enough time has passed now from my last surgery that I am finally able to get some help. It is not the most comfortable procedure – a stranger running their hands up and down my scar – however I do believe it will help. I will take a picture today and then one again after six sessions and let you all know what the deal is. Stay tuned. 

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. 

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.