This post is in honour of Mental Health Awareness.
Cancer is a wave, it comes with many different points and if you tackle it at just the wrong point you’ll wipe out.
Some days I hit the wave just perfectly, I ride on top of it. Bravely, feeling strong and in control. Like I got this.
Others I wipe out and find that no matter how many times I try to get back up on my feet I find myself back flat on the surfboard under me, and on my worst days I lose the board and get stuck in a riptide under the water. Feeling like I’m drowning in it.
Yet, until the diagnosis of my recurrence and the news of my colostomy I hadn’t been offered any mental health support. It was the incredible Sue Ryder team that finally began to sort this out for me, after they discovered I had not previously been offered any.
In fact the problem is so rife there is an article about it over on Mentalhealth.org.uk, you can check it out below.
This cancer changed my world, it took away my choice to have anymore children (but in the words of the doctors ‘at least you have two’), never mind the fact that before I had even turned 30, I had lost my reproductive organs, and depending on the outcome of my surgery and then maybe further treatment possibly all of my biological reproductive choices. I was facing a disease that kills people.
Then I heard the words I’d longed for. “No further treatment is required”. There was so much elation in that moment was massive. My surgeon told me to go and enjoy my life and my girls. Oh, my how I planned to do that. But that’s harder than it sounds when you know you’ve got at least five years worth of being checked on because it could come back. It doesn’t matter the odds, that fear is always there.
Of course, less than four months after my original surgery the cancer had returned.
My worst nightmare.
I didn’t think I could have ever been lower than the day I was originally diagnosed and now I’ve stopped thinking in terms of that, because I know there is news that could come and take me to darker and darker places.
Things got worse when we discovered it had spread.
My fight just seemed to loom above me, while I was stood on the ground in a whirlwind of booklets and half informations not knowing where to look or turn. My family all trying to stand strong around me so I could fall when I’m sure they wanted to fall themselves too.
Diseases like cancer, anything that radically changes your life and your dreams in a moment deserves mental health support. It should just come with that. It shouldn’t be something that we have to fight for when we are already fighting for so much.
I have had moments in such deep darkness I wondered if I would ever see any light again. I have had moments where I have screamed and sobbed into pillows and wished like hell that it was someone else and not me.
Every night before I fall asleep I wish that I might wake up and find that this whole part of my life has been like some kind of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” experience for me to learn a life affirming lesson and then skip into the sunset with my amazing lot around me to enjoy.
Every letter back from the various consultants that have delivered me blow, after blow, has detailed my emotional response. Not in a “the patient was understandably, incredibly distressed and we would ask you ensure any mental health and additional support is in place for her and her family, through an incredibly difficult time” kind of way. In the “The patient cried a lot, that was a bit weird, she might be a bit off her rocker” kind of way.
At no point throughout my journey have I really ever felt like the professional medical staff dealing with me from the oncological point of view have “had my back” for want of a better turn of phrase. The professionals that have kept me going are charity workers and my GP who has been beyond incredible in his efforts to help my family get through this in whatever way he is able. He truly is our family GP in a way that family GP’s used to be.
So come on, Theresa May. Come on MP’s. Where are you? Why are you stripping vital recourses from mental health care? Why aren’t you taking it seriously? Maintaining mental health is just as valid and important as physical health.
After all, you’d never think to tell someone like me “Oh, it’s just cancer get over it”.