It’s been a hard few weeks. Sickness has hung over us like an angry cloud. First Miss lipstick goes down with croup, then Mr Mac with pneumonia and then like the final wobbling skittle I finally hit the deck, hard. Not with just one ailment but three. Laryngitis, followed by a type of pneumonia and pleurisy.
I haven’t been this sick since in between chemo last year. Struggling for breath I had to wake the kids in their Pjs at two in the morning and bundle us all in the car to ER. They had to watch as I was attached to ECG wires, drips and Oxygen tubes. The machine was constantly beeping and at one point the nurse gently shook me to wake me up and remind me to “breathe”. I didn’t want them to see my like this but as a single mum we have to travel as a pack, even if it is the middle of the night. I had to make the call to their dad to come and collect them as I was going to be admitted. They were in tears and pleading to stay and imploring that they could look after me at home. Logistics took priority over emotions and so off they went.
I was in hospital for a few days. The enforced bed rest gave me time to think. Well as anyone who has stayed in hospital knows you are constantly awake as you are poked to take your stats, medication, breathing masks and IV antibiotics are changed every few hours. My veins have been shot to pieces from chemo last year and so the position of the cannula had to be changed. I started to shake when the antibiotics were administered so it had to be drip fed in. Like breast feeding this meant as soon as one bag was empty, it was time for the next. The tubes kept catching and even with my arm straightened (the cannula was moved into the inner part of my elbow) the machine would bleep with frustration and so a nurse would have to come and check it again and again. Fourteen bags of antibiotics went through my fragile veins. Not to mention the other antibiotics given orally or the steroids. I became a junky again and the day was just broken up by medication times.
The hardest part of all of this was that I had to confront my own sense of what I am currently capable of. I had thought I could bounce back from last year, work full time and reclaim my normality. This is not possible. I have this “new normal” that doesn’t quite fit with my own vision of what I can cope with. My mind and body are not on the same path right now.
I’ve been tricked. I mean I have hair that now looks like it is part of an intentional style vs a regrowth. I am out of my comfortable and forgiving clothes of last year and have lost some of the steroid widening weight gain. I’ve even started to sport lipstick on work days. If you met me now you wouldn’t know what happened last year. I mean I was in charge of my treatment decisions and surgeries last year and carefully scheduled them so that the bulk of treatment would be completed in the one year. I almost patted myself on the back that I could refer to it as my very own ” Annus Horribilis”. I, like my family and friends were just as anxious to move on. However the effects cling on long after and I’ve found this is the time that hits you hardest with this trip to hospital was a reminder that its not over.
Intellectually I knew that there would be some ramifications. After all I’ve been placed into menopause early, my immune system has taken a hit from all the chemo and radiotherapy. Even the daily medication I must take to lap up any remaining hormones that might encourage or feed any cancer has its own side effects on my bone density etc.
What I hadn’t fully realised is that my tipping edge is now featherweight. I could charge back into life with no full stops before but now I have to punctuate my own time and allow respite for myself. I know I will get stronger, but for now I have to take a step back and put my health first, which in turn means you have to put yourself first. There can be no stiff upper lip about this journey and I need to worry less what others think I should be doing and focus on what I need to be doing, for me and for the kids. After all there’s no point having gone through this treatment if I don’t learn to live for the now and respect my new normal.