Well, that’s it! It’s all finished.
70 nights in hospital.
41 clinic appointments.
14 blood transfusions.
12 platelet transfusions.
8 neutropenic sepsis’.
8 lumbar punctures.
5 high-dose chemo cycles.
4 trips to A&E.
3 allergic reactions.
3 CT scans.
2 central lines.
Definitely, way more time than any 20-something-year-old wants to spend in hospital.
I’ve had a lot of ‘Are you pleased that it’s finished?’, ‘I bet you’re really relieved now aren’t you?’ and ‘Isn’t it a weight off your shoulders?’ and to be honest I still don’t really know how I feel.
I feel physically better than I have for the past 7 months and I’m supremely happy that I don’t have to have any more chemotherapy (for the time being at least), but do I feel relieved/happy/like a weight has been lifted? No. No, I don’t.
I felt pretty good mentally (surprisingly) throughout my treatment. I never succumbed to the thought that this might not work; I felt positive and hopeful. It’s not that I don’t feel positive and hopeful now, it’s more that I feel sort of lost and abandoned. I have had at least 2 appointments a week for the past 7 months and now I am well enough that I have been set free until my PET scan at the end of January. Which is a good thing I know, but when you’ve had that constant care and monitoring for so long, to now have nothing feels very unnerving. I feel like I don’t really belong anywhere at the moment. I’m not ill so I don’t belong in hospital but I’m not well enough to go back to work, so I’m just sort of floating in limbo until January.
I remember my consultant telling me that often it is after treatment that people begin to struggle with their mental health, and I remember thinking “How silly! I’ll be so much better after chemo finishes, not worse…” but she was right (of course she was, she’s the one in charge). I think it’s the unknown that is daunting. I have to spend the next 3 months not knowing how treatment has gone. I think it’s also losing that crutch of care from the hospital. Every little pang of pain or discomfort in my body immediately sends me into a headspin of worry. What if that’s the cancer?!?
I have requested a referral to a therapist from my Nurse Specialist. Having spoken with my little group of cancer friends (we have dubbed ourselves the Badass Babes and they have changed my life for the better) they have all suggested this. I think it’s something that should be talked about more; counselling/therapy for or after cancer treatment. Anything to lessen the taboo of cancer in any way.
I think what I want anyone who is nearing the end or has just finished their treatment to take away from this is that you’re going to have a lot of people expecting you to be feeling better now, but it’s okay to not feel okay 🖤