What can I say?
It’s been a long time since I have felt like writing or doing much of anything to be honest. As you know, I had a recurrence in August this year which required surgery to remove the small lesion (3cm) from the remaining liver. Surgery successfully removed the lesion and I was home after four days. I was recovering well but then started to feel fluish and was waking up with severe headaches. I went over to see Adam, my oncologist and bloods revealed an infection with CRP markers at 239, five being normal. I had a CT of the area, and they found an abscess measuring 5 cm by 7 cm, in the area where the liver had been removed. I had a pigtail drain inserted into the infected area and I did five days of IV antibiotics at the clinic (I was not going to go to hospital just to have a drip!). I completed the course orally with three days of tablet form antibiotics. I had the drain for just over a week and thankfully it all cleared up. That’s the physical side of my recurrence; might sound tough, which it was but it was nothing compared to the mental battle of a recurrence, second infection and facing the reality that the fucking cancer showed up again.
If you know me, and you have followed my journey, you will know that I have made radical changes to my lifestyle. I am no saint, but I have tried my utmost to live a healthy lifestyle with a plant- based diet, reduced processed food and sugar as well as exercising regularly, with meditation thrown in here and there. All these changes have definitely had a positive impact on my health and well being and I 100% recommend to anyone to make such changes in their life. That being said, I was devastated to find out that the cancer had returned. Of course, I questioned all my actions and lifestyle, was there something I could have done more of? What did I do that could have made my cells react? Is the cancer going to keep coming back? I already felt so much pressure to keep a strict regime, so perhaps I was putting too much pressure on myself? I know that stress is a massive factor, how do we irradicate stress from our lives? We cannot. We have to try and manage it. It can become a vicious cycle of panicking that we are stressed then we become more stressed. It’s easy to say meditate, breathe, take a walk but after my recurrence, I felt like I was suffocating. I knew all the methods that I should be doing, but I couldn’t bring myself to do them. I was paralysed. Stuck in my own head, slowly driving myself mad. You may think I am being dramatic, but I was stuck in this cycle and didn’t know how to get off.
Since, my initial diagnosis, I always tried to keep a positive attitude as well as allowing myself to feel the pain when I needed to. I found a balance that I believed was healthy and it worked for me. I Had a good routine and even when there was a bump in the road with exercise, for example, I would get back up and start again. But, I hit a wall this time, I was tired, tired of all the fucking shit that was coming my way. Remember, life also has external stresses that we cannot control, on top of coping with our own shit. I am well aware there are people ‘worse off’ than me, that didn’t help me. I still felt how I felt. Pretty fucking hopeless. Was I wallowing? Yes, somewhat. Was I entitled to feel the way I did, also yes. With all that said, how do we pick ourselves up when we are so low? Honestly, I am not sure. I do know it took a lot of effort to mentally push myself to just start with a small task that could set me back into normal existence (other than binging Netflix). I think I got so fed up with my own head that I kind of forced myself to cook a proper meal for myself, I was cooking for Ari but had no regard for my own food. Why do we do that? A mother’s instinct is to do anything for their kids but not for themselves. This is another unhealthy pattern that I recognised was forming.
The key was for me to recognise that I needed help. Too often I have tried to be ‘strong’ and pull myself through, that was not working so well for me now. I decided to contact a friend who is also a Life – Cancer – Mindbody coach. I had seen other people, whether on treatments or post cancer, were having therapy, so I made the move. She set me up with some great exercises and stress management techniques which I am trying to use. Life is far from perfect. As I said, external factors will always pop up, some worse than others. I am doing my best to slowly reintroduce exercise and meditation (the latter takes a lot of effort but I have made a start), I am cooking for myself every day and I talk to my coach regularly. I am taking all my supplements, and have had a couple of runs. Exercise definitely needs to be worked on but one step at a time. At the moment, I am also still in the dark about whether I will be doing preventative chemo in the new year, so that is lingering in my mind. If I have to do it, then I will do it. Last bloods showed my CEA markers were at 1.2 (<2.5 normal) and by January I will be due my regular scans again.
What message am I trying to share? That life can be fucking hard, and from nowhere it can knock you completely off your feet. It will take time, sometimes a long time to get back up, but slowly it can be done. Ari is my little fountain of joy, whenever I feel too low, I look at her and she ignites that spark in me! But we also need to ask for help. Take some pressure off! Invest some time in yourself because you are worthy, you are important, you matter, and you are enough.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and I wish you love and blessings for 2022!
Lots of love, Jojo xoxo
Just a brilliantly written piece. And your finishing paragraph is so accurate. Huge admiration for you and continually keeping you in my thoughts and prayers
Thanks Mike xx
A story of your journey well told. The raw truth of the ups and downs of living with a re-occurring cancer. You are brave Jo Jo. You hadn’t much choice to be anything else when faced with tbe hurdles life has thrown at you. You have every right to feel down as well as up. You are your beautiful mother’s daughter, my great friend whom we all sadly miss. I am so proud of you and so wish I could kick cancer into the long grass for you and all those living with this disease. God bless you, all my Love Sheena xxx
I am sure she is watching over me and thank you for always supporting me xx