Being as aware as I am of my own frailties, I do my best to plan my work so there is always a good recovery time in between. However some recent complications have meant that I need to be more frequently at hospital, unfortunately leading to a congested diary (yet again!) I have just completed some speaking presentations and personal visits, which all had incredible personal meaning to me, and in each case I was blown away by peoples stories and experience. It is only now that I have time to sit and review what I have recently experienced. Each one of these events has led to other things developing, and some extremely emotional exchanges.
I had difficulty sleeping last night, even with my regular meds, my head was replaying many of the conversations I recently had. That is what has prompted me to write this piece. I find writing a great discipline which concentrates my mind, and helps me put my sometimes random thoughts into some logical order. It forces me to sit down and focus, which I find extremely difficult to do, as I am like a butterfly constantly going from one thing to another. It also helps me make sense of things, and hopefully other people too! My writing and presentations are all designed to stimulate communication, which of course is always very powerful on a face to face basis. After many years of doing what I do, there is little left to surprise me I thought!
Many people want to share their own experiences and opinions, and this is an incredible way to learn. Often those dialogues are continued privately via messaging or emails, which I am always delighted to do if appropriate. But with my own issues becoming more complex, I have found my recent work more difficult. This piece is not a cry for help, as this will only be temporary like most things on the cancer landscape, but more about making people aware of what can happen.
Most of the individuals I work with have their own cancer issues to deal with, but are also throwing themselves into support projects in the same way as I do. Their thought is not for themselves, but purely for helping others. Many are just beginning, with that raw energy that drives you with a new project, and I can already see the emotional energy being used. The great thing for us all is that we can forget about our disease and focus our energies in a positive way. When we are busy, temporarily we can forget that we are sick, which is always a good thing. Others too can forget or not recognise our illness, meaning things take on some sense of normality for a time. However the reality is that we do not have the same amount of emotional energy to give to projects when we are trying to deal with the side effects of cancer.
During this recent period, I have also thought more frequently about my wife and family, who support me unquestionably in everything I do. My wife has cared for me since I became sick and watched as our lives have been changed forever, many of our hopes and dreams now discarded. She sees the tough times like no one else does, and puts up with me when I am emotionally drained because of my health or work. Cancer does make you selfish unquestionably, and my health I can’t really change, but is it fair I make things worse with all the other things I do? She understands this is my passion so I do my best to ensure that my personal life is not affected too much, but undoubtedly it is difficult. I need a positive focus for myself and can be that for others, but I can see the warning signs.
Cancer sucks you in, both physically and emotionally, it is certainly a very powerful adversary! I have done my best to use my business experience and deal with things in a logical way allowing for my health, but still nature finds a way of holding me back. I have accepted that is the way it is, but I live with incredible frustration, knowing that I could do so much more! The impact we can have on people is tangible, we can all see it in the work we do, people smiling and knowing that there are others who totally understand what they are going through. That is why we all want to continue giving, after all there is no better feeling in the world than being able to help someone, when they need it most. We have all been helped by people and feel the need to “give something back.”
It is impossible to do this work without feeling emotion, and for me it feels the more I do it the more emotional I get. If I’m honest I didn’t think it would be like that, I felt I might develop an ‘immunity,’ but that hasn’t happened. I think my own situation has only helped me appreciate more, what other people are going through. Of course I won’t be stopping what I do, and nor will anyone else, but I have written this piece to make people aware,(if they didn’t realise it already) of the incredible toll that the emotional side of cancer can take. In many cases we don’t even realise it is happening!
How do you deal with the emotional impact of cancer? What is your experience? I would love to hear your views as always!