I never would have believed anyone before who said it’s tiring returning to ‘normal’ life, but it is. Another survivor told me she used to cry her eyes out on her lunch breaks in the toilets for feeling so overwhelmingly tired when she returned full time. Full time feels impossible for now, I’m exhausted after my reduced hours. It’s more difficult than I first thought and I’ve considered when dog walking, am I not trying hard enough? The dreaded comparison to others emerges. So and so worked through their cancer treatment. So and so is working full time now. I quickly dismiss these unhelpful thoughts and think, why is work such a measure of our health, or determination ? True is eats up a huge amount of our time, energy and thoughts. I guess a lot of my self esteem used to be reassured by work, I was confident and capable, I enjoyed my job and was good at it. I had seemingly boundless enthusiasm and energy didn’t I ? What has changed ? The Government and one too many restructures ? Being constantly overworked and under appreciated ? It’s safe to say I was reconsidering my life and relationship with work even before being diagnosed with cancer. The cancer career break given a pause on all those dramas albeit temporarily.
So here is my million dollar question and perhaps echoes a conversation I’ve had with another health professional, who was a cancer survivor too. There is almost a ‘born again’ realisation after being diagnosed, life is precious, I need to treasure it . We say I’m going to change my diet, reduce the stresses from our life, learn from this experience and eliminate the external stress that devours us and quieten the internal stress through mindfulness. What if this isn’t possible ? I’m not in a position to quit my job, well I could, but who will pay my living expenses? The state won’t , a less pressured job would be great but would come with lower pay and ummm am I top of the recruitment list for any employer after 10 months off work ? Sure they can’t discriminate, but it’s like when I got my last job, they said if my children had been younger, they wouldn’t have employed me. Yes, really. So dropping out of life and living in a chilled environment may seem idyllic but isn’t really going to happen is it ? Or am I limiting myself by the culture of overwork that I have been born into ?
Eliminating external stress to remain cancer free feels a bit like another stress actually. The whole I must stay positive and not think bad thoughts is one thing, the next thing- oh please don’t get stressed we don’t want you to get ill again, is another one. Can finishing treatment and re entering into normal life encourage cancer cells to regroup ? When you put it like that, who knows! Stress has got to be the number 1 Public Enemy in the world, our bodies constantly tested and exhausted by the demands of modern life. Juggling, multi tasking, moving at a pace, increasingly busy.
With this in mind, and reflecting on my previous thoughts, the best I can do is manage it. I may not be able to control the external pressures wholly , but I CAN control how I respond to them and which ones I react to. Acknowledge that at times I’m going to be sat on my ass on the kerb as life blurs past me at a ridiculous speed and that it’s ok to sit and watch. That it doesn’t matter if I don’t finish at the same time as others, if I can’t manage to juggle work, socialising and exercising at the moment. It’s readjusting to a pace of life and getting back on the merry go round, but with a set of controlling reigns for it so that you don’t become nauseatingly dizzy and have to sit out again.
In conclusion, wobbly days at work, like yesterday, lend to days like today, where I reflect and readjust and nurture myself. I can’t expect to live in a stress less environment with everything being perfect. A very wise new friend said to me at the beginning of the week, it’s all about constant readjustments. Taking it in 2 inches, letting it out 2 inches. Here’s to elastic living and making the best of every situation. Here’s to silver linings. Excelsior.