I have to start this post with a confession; my confidence has been knocked. Since the hospital stay over New Year I’ve been feeling pretty down, and for the first two weeks of 2012 have found myself looking at Tom and welling up.
Still feeling weak as I recovered from a mystery virus, I spent most of my days in bed watching Six Feet Under, a programme where every episode begins with a death. It might not seem the best box set to be working my way through in my current state of mind, but I was hooked. Yet however entertaining it might be, it was hardly an occupation that made me feel I was achieving anything with my life.
The sadness would creep over me as soon as I woke. Every morning I ask myself how I feel, and these mornings were all filled with the same answers; weak, a bit sick and thoroughly pissed off.
I clearly needed to rest, but my mind was railing against what my body was telling me to do. I wanted to clean the flat, to be able to cook for Tom, to meet friends for coffee, to have the energy to do some yoga. I wanted my appetite back. Even the simplest task of cleaning the kitchen was too great for me.
I wasn’t eating well, I hadn’t been drinking my Chinese tea, the green shit sat untouched on the table, and I found myself falling asleep during every meditation. I felt disconnected from the world and unable to reply to all my emails and texts. I didn’t want to write a new post on the blog and I didn’t want any visitors.
I was overcome by guilt at what I perceived as being a failure to keep the faith and couldn’t see a way out of it. Well this is it, isn’t it? I thought. My life from now on would be an endless cycle of treatment after treatment; a treadmill of hospitals, needles and never being able to promise I can make a social commitment in fear that that day will be an ‘off day.’
I knew I needed to do something to get myself out of this rut so I booked in for EFT with Emma. An EFT session is similar to a session with a psychologist in many ways, but I’ve found that most of the psychologists I’ve seen tend to err on the side of pessimism.
One recently suggested that I was trying to mend a certain relationship because I had a ‘limited amount of time left.’ It may have been a casual, throwaway comment, but I picked her up on it and it stuck with me – she thinks I’m going to die soon.
With Emma it’s entirely different. She challenged my negative outlook and reminded me that my future is far from written. The problem was that the knock I’d taken by being hospitalised over New Year had made me forget that I can beat this. The aim is to beat the stats, not be a victim of them.
Emma told me a few home truths I think many of us forget. We can often be our own harshest judges. She asked me whether, If the roles were reversed and Tom was sat on the sofa after a chemo, I would be leaving him a ‘to do’ list; to clean the kitchen, do a food shop. Of course not, yet I was expecting it of myself.
“Have you always been a high achiever?” Emma asked me. I’d never really thought about it, but I suppose that I am proud of what I’ve achieved in my profession. I’d known what I’d wanted to do since I was fifteen and pretty much dedicated my life to my career.
In some ways I’m glad I was so determined; being a broadcast journalist is a brilliant job and fantastically rewarding. I was working for national channels by the time I was 25 and had done it the hard way, starting out in local radio.
But the hours are long and your life gets overtaken by the job. It was all about my career and looking back I led an unhealthy life. Fourteen hour days, six or seven-day weeks, grabbing any old ready meal, accompanied by a glass of wine most nights. Unfortunately, it took cancer to stop me in my tracks.
Emma and I talked about achievement. What did I think I’d achieved most in my life? I was glad I’d done well in my career but that wasn’t what I treasured and was most proud of. I consider my strong relationship with Tom and the amazing group of friends I have to be my biggest achievements. I’m never going to look back from my deathbed and think, ‘If only I’d done the washing up that time when I’d just had chemo.’
As Emma pointed out, some would consider a high achiever to be someone who sets out to achieve the impossible, who tries to win even when the odds are stacked against them. Today, I’m feeling well and positive again, having just returned from a lovely Sunday lunch with friends who made me laugh and forget all the bullshit for an afternoon. I’m typing with Tom by my side reading a three-week-old Observer and I feel I can be that high achiever again. But my project isn’t a clean flat or cooking dinner for Tom every night, my project is to beat this disease – and that will be my greatest achievement yet.
p.s. Tom would like to point out that cooking dinner for him every night is a very valid achievement and that the Observer was only two weeks old.
p.p.s I wouldn’t usually use the blog for something like this but it’s my blog so sod it! One of my best friends and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met is running the Brighton Marathon in April for Cancer Research UK. Matthew has accompanied me to many of my chemo treatments and has thus seen first hand what it’s like to be a cancer patient. I think for that reason he decided to set himself this massive challenge and raise money for a charity that will hopefully one day be responsible for a cure for this hideous disease. This is no mean feat as Matt hadn’t even been on a run before he started training for the marathon. Please give if you can.