Today is the penultimate day of this school year and I am sure you can imagine how excited the kids are at the prospect of nearly eight whole weeks off. Their excitement is rubbing off on our household and I think we are all getting very much into holiday mode. We have been winding down the past week or so with the usual school routine and I am nearly apoplectic if anyone mentions homework to me! I love this time of year and especially now that I am not working, I can look forward to a long Summer.
As always there is a slight awareness or even sometimes a persistent, nagging sensation, similar to white noise, lurking in the background in the midst of daily life and goings on. I am due a follow up visit with my Oncologist in a couple of weeks time and as the time approaches the self doubt starts setting in. It gets worse in the middle of the night when I subconsciously start checking for any unusual lumps or bumps. This anxiety is easy to control during the day but the feelings surface at night uninvited. Even periodically I catch myself peering into the mirror checking do I still have my “cancer face” and I then tell myself to stop. STOP. This negative self- talk is not helping me and I am wasting time when I am actually well. A useful aid I have learned to use over the years from the book pictured and especially the piece on Challenging Negative Self-Talk. I have written about how I find this book helpful before in the post On Life Planning..
It has taken me quite awhile but I can now recognise when my mind is wandering and veering into the abyss. Positive affirmations help me to refocus and move away from pessimistic thoughts. Something like ” I feel so much stronger than six months ago” ” My energy levels are improving”… You get the gist! Work on developing your own personal affirmations and note how powerful an effect they have on you when repeated over time.
Just before being diagnosed with a recurrence whilst waiting for a doctor’s appointment (of course it was over the Easter period!), I distracted myself by redecorating a room. I was able to sleep fitfully from sheer physical exhaustion. I remember visiting Ikea on the day of my appointment and loading the car with all sorts of bits and pieces. I did have a moment wondering was this appropriate behaviour! On the day when my fears were realised, my Oncologist rang me that morning to tell me the biopsy result. After ringing my husband, he found me scrubbing floors when he arrived home. I believe there is a scientific explanation for all of this, something to do with raised cortisol and stress so it was my way of relieving a period of heightened stress. I wasn’t going bonkers just good old “fight or flight” reaction!
Seriously though, coming up to an appointment that you may be concerned about, distracting yourself in whatever way suits you does help. I have organised birthday parties, sleepovers with the kids, cousins staying for a few days just in order to stay busy and not think too much. We all know at this stage how good any form of exercise is beneficial for mental health and relieving stress. At the end of the day, this fear and anxiety that most of us experience before any follow up appointment is normal and natural. I try and tell myself that not only is it wasting precious time but whatever the outcome, I have no control over cancer returning but I can try and control my fear and anxiety.
In the meantime, over the next couple of weeks there is plenty to keep me occupied with summer camps and I imagine my house will be sparkling clean!
PS: Find out how I got on with my appointment on Settling into Summer.. x