Since I started 2016 and threw caution to the wind to broaden my work reach, the time has absolutely flashed past, which has been fantastic, as I have been involved in so many exciting projects around the world. Most importantly I have now started my own charity, which has opened up many different opportunities. The massive positive I have found is that my mind is fully occupied and I have very little time to consider my own health, which is a great bonus. Of course I realise that I can’t do things in the way that most healthy people can, but if I’m honest I have got fed up with living my life in such a cautious way. Not doing many things I want to, and being tired all the time. Constantly worrying if I am going to get an infection to set me back again. It has often felt that I am being kept prisoner in my own body!
In a few days I am doing a very important national conference and then we are taking our first ever cruise, which is a bit of a bucket list thing, but will be lovely! I had to go to hospital yesterday to get my medication and have a check up before I go, and that is when all the uncertainties started coming back. A cough has started and I’m full of catarrh, leading my Consultant to ask if I had been overdoing things. “Of course I have,” I replied and he looked to the skies. So I left hospital with a large bag of meds in case things get tricky while I am on the boat. That visit just reminded me how vulnerable I really am. Today I spoke with someone about a project and she said that she had totally forgotten I was a patient, and until yesterday so had I!
This year has been the most productive year for me since I got sick. I am now really confident with what I do, and there is a very steady stream of interesting projects to think about. Alongside my own charity work, I have started to write a book about my experiences, since I got cancer, which seems to be getting longer the more I think about it. My work is now established around the world and particularly in America. But there is so much more that can be done and I find it hard to quench my continual thirst for a challenge!
The value of time is so very different now to what it was before my illness. I have been incredibly lucky and remain indebted continuously to my medical team, family and friends who support me unquestionably. During my recent conversations at hospital I discussed the importance of ‘satisfying time’ rather than time just resting. Everybody talks about finding a happy medium, but that is easier said than done. My body can only do so much now anyway, which is getting less as the months go by. All the statistics show me that I am lucky to still be here, so what am I saving myself for?
Everyday I feel grateful for the things I am able to do, and the incredible people I can help. I know that the sensible thing is to slow down, and take things much easier, but I have never really done the sensible thing so far and I guess I am now too old to change. There is a constant feeling of not wanting to waste time and miss the opportunities that are coming along now. I have missed a big chunk of my life because of this illness and I don’t want to lose any more! Although working with the handicap of unreliable health is extremely difficult, and at times requires a massive effort, both physically and mentally, I do get an incredible feeling of satisfaction, which is now beginning to block out some of the negative feelings I have.
My psychological settings have been altered forever since my diagnosis, which still feels like yesterday, and despite a fading memory I can still remember every word of that conversation! Unable to keep that shock from my head I rely on sleeping tablets to switch my brain off now. It is very strange, the cocktail of emotions I live with daily, ranging from elation to depression, and guilt to pleasure. Too much thinking complicates life for me now, so I tend to rely much more on my instincts, what feels right. Being busy, feels mentally right, even if my body struggles with that. It might not be the right way for everyone but it fits for me now.
After the early days of my illness, to make 52 was a major step, now I am applying for my London travel pass as I approach 60 in the next few weeks! What has happened to me in that time has been incredible, some really dreadful lows but incredible highs too. Of course I have been unbelievably lucky, and I don’t know how long that can continue, but I know that I will not slow down unless my body forces me too. As each day passes my gratitude increases. The extra time I have been given has allowed me to correct some of my mistakes, and live a much more fulfilling life, with totally different priorities to before. Of course there is no right or wrong, just what works for you. Keeping busy is working for me right now, so that’s how I will continue until nature tells me otherwise!
As always, above are my thoughts and experiences and please feel free to share yours below. How has illness affected you psychologically? Have you managed to get your life back on track?