I couldn’t really skip to diagnosis day without giving a huge shout out to panic and anxiety. They kindly kept me company for the two weeks leading to diagnosis and now check in with how I’m doing on a regular basis.
I can imagine we have all had the cancer scare. A dodgy smear, a lump, an itchy mole, usually alleviated quite quickly by a GP or perhaps a further test. It usually stops there. But we all know the worry, just that in itself creates. I was with a friend recently who was telling me of a recent cancer scare she had had. She told me how frightened she felt. It ended with her saying “and thankfully everything was o.k. Phew!” There was a very slight uncomfortable pause before we swiftly moved on to other matters. I know in that pause she felt bad. She’s an intelligent woman who was probably kicking herself under the table. But the pause on my part wasn’t due to thinking she was insensitive, I was pleased for her. I was just briefly thinking how I envied her.. how I wish I had had that Phew! moment.
Panic and anxiety are not emotions I was familiar with until this episode. I have been lucky enough to never having experienced a panic attack or feel the type of anxiety that is present every second of every day, trying to stop you breath. I was about to experience possibly the most difficult period of my life. I was amazed at the way my emotions engulfed my physical well-being. Surely my emotions could just stay put in my head? But no, they took over my body. My heart rate would start racing for no apparent reason. My hands were sweaty, and that awful feeling of just slowly descending into a force that compresses your chest so that you can’t quite take a full gulp of air. Your lungs no longer have the capacity to be full. I had a knot of tension ever-present in the pit of my stomach, it made me feel restless. It stopped me doing things that would normally occupy my mind. It stopped me from doing things I enjoyed. It allowed me no respite. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t watch the telly, I couldn’t be with friends and enjoy a conversation and I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted. I would go to bed and just lie there. I would eventually drift off, maybe just part midnight to wake again two hours later. The loneliest time is in the middle of the night with your fears when everyone else around you sleeps. I would watch the clock and then maybe drift off about an hour before my alarm was due to wake me. I was tired but I couldn’t sleep. I craved cups of tea and comfort.
At this time the only two people who knew the fear I was living in were my husband and one of my sisters. My husband was at work while my sister tried to encourage me out. I didn’t mind just being with her and not speaking. We would wonder around , or go for a coffee while I silently wiped the tears away. I couldn’t plan meal times or function normally at all. She took me food shopping. I didn’t know what to put in the basket, she helpfully popped things in that didn’t take much thought. We went to pay. I was at a self-service till when I could feel that I was going to start crying and not be able to stop. I wanted to leave the food. I was trying to take deep breaths but the tears started to fall. We went outside. Standing on Richmond high street I just cried. I needed to get home. My sister walked me to the car and before she said goodbye she said.”Ruth, I have a good feeling about this. Trust me. You’ll be fine.”
Me coping with the anxiety by walking up huge hills.
Sorry this blog is a bit doom and gloom. It was a pretty bad time. Humour back soon.