Cancer Column: The Reality of Brave Faces

Last night, after saturating myself in some intoxicating splutter of Lush products in preparation for my not-so beautiful beauty sleep, I noticed my temperature had spiked to a dangerous level and, before I knew it, I was shuttling my not-so merry way up to A&E. By the time I got there, my temp had actually fallen down but I was tachycardic so I needed IV antiobiotics like I always do. The only positive, I was telling myself, is at least they can use my port-a-cath rather than having to cannulate me. They put the gripper needle in my chest (an expected ouch) and it was fine until it wasn’t giving them blood (which is exactly what it should do considering it’s a tube inside my vein). Fabulous.

So they had to cannulate my arm to get the blood cultures. As they put torniquet on my arm, I completely broke down in tears about how fed up I was about constant post-chemo readmittances and how nothing seems to be going well and had a huge panic attack. This obviously made my blood really pressurised and with the band on my arm too, when they injected, blood started seeping and stained the bed etc. I haven’t cried much throughout cancer at all (with the only exceptions being just before I started chemo and grieving over a friend) but I completely broke last night.

As I type this, I am sharing a ward with five elderly gentlemen, keeping my sanity in place with the new BANKS and Bon Iver album and trying to pull myself out of a very distressful place. I won’t get out today. Despite most of what I have written about regarding my diagnosis has been somewhat positive or simply neutral, it would be dishonest of me to acknowledge how hard this is and how hard this is getting. I am still overwhelmed by the love and generosity of others. Today is the National Macmillan Coffee Morning and seeing friend’s dedicate their time to this cause warms my heart.

Staring at hospital ceilings for hours with eyes heavy with tears has become a new norm. And in no way is me writing this a cry for help, call for attention of display of pity, but a vent of frustration. I miss my life.

Putting on a brave face is easy for the most part, especially online, and I like to consider that I am pretty positive most of the time, but as this lifestyle doesn’t seem to change, friends stop visiting and pains don’t seem to disappear, this heavy anxiety-ridden fed-up-ness looms. They say that one of the biggest side effects of chemotherapy is ‘chemo-brain’, where certain chemo drugs interfere with the inner workings of the mind. ‘Chemo-brain’ can mean anything from mood swings, losing memory, feeling foggy-minded, being more distracted and, for many a patient, depression and anxiety.

This week is my final week of freedom before my next cycle of chemo and before I jet off to America for two and a bit months. God hope I get myself out of hospital.

I am simultaneously doing ok and really not doing ok anymore. Cancer seems to be beating me, for now.

Words // Dean Eastmond
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