As many of you know I recently completed my final chemo cycle for what I hope will be a very long time. I expected to feel a real sense of elation and relief for at least the next week, even if my body was still recovering. But apart from the first couple of days, I have felt incredibly flat and quite unwell. I think a few things have contributed to this.
A family member who I’m very close to has been recovering from surgery to remove both her ovaries and fallopian tubes. Whilst it was just keyhole surgery that’s a whole lot of your insides to be taken out. I looked after her for a few days and she really needed it. The poor thing could barely move without sharp stabs of pain; let alone cook, buy food, top up her medication, empty the bins…all the normal post-op stuff. So I went and did that and it was my absolute privilege. She is such a caring and nurturing person and has taken amazing care of me over the past 15 months.
But by Wednesday afternoon I was utterly exhausted. So I took myself home and lay down for the rest of the day. I just figured it was the normal post-chemo lethargy, amplified by looking after someone else for 3 days. But by Friday I wasn’t feeling any better, if anything a little worse. And this was compounded by the news that my family member would also need to have her uterus taken out because they had found some cancer in it. It’s at a very early stage and her surgeon assures her she will live until 90, but obviously it’s not the news anyone wants to hear. I feel sad for her that she needs more surgery while her current wounds are still healing, scared for her (even though she sounds very positive) and it probably brought up some residual grief around my mum and my own situation.
Luckily I had an appointment with my Kinesiologist on the Friday and I’m so glad I went. I talked her through everything and said I was so disappointed that I wasn’t going back to work on Monday feeling physically strong and super positive about the rest of the year, which had been my plan. “Why don’t you just say you’re not ready?” she asked. “Oh no I couldn’t do that”, I replied and started listing a whole bunch of reasons: I’d committed to this date, I had a meeting on the Monday, I hate letting people down etc. That’s when Natasha told me I was operating from a place of fear and that I needed to try and switch that to love. She explained that a fear response always involves doing something you know deep down isn’t right for you, while choosing the opposite, to love yourself and make a decision that’s best for YOU, is always going to end up being the better choice in the long run.
It was a great insight and I’ve tried to apply it to as many situations as I can since then. I rang my manager as soon as I got home and she was wonderful and supportive (as she always is) and we agreed I’d just start a bit later this week. Immediately I felt relieved and a slight mental lift. I was still feeling super tired so I just lay on the couch and watched the tennis (or fell asleep to the tennis more accurately) and got an early night. The fear response would have been to distract myself, go out with friends and probably drink too much. But as corny as it sounds, I chose to love and take care of myself.
I’m still not feeling 100%, but each quiet and reflective day that includes meditation, exercise, watching tennis and movies has me headed towards feeling better. I’ve now set myself a challenge to pause each day and ask myself whether I’m making decisions out of fear or out of love, and even just the thought of that makes me feel a little happier.