I have starting this blog post so many times over the last couple of months but have never really known how to write what I really wanted to say. In truth I have shied away from sharing my thoughts, as my battle with chemotherapy was so much harder than I imagined. For someone who is used to sharing everything about my health my chemo journey felt very personal. It just felt right to go quiet for a bit and cope privately.
What my own cancer battle did for me was to start to put things in to perspective. My life is no different to all of yours. It is busy, there are continual demands on my time and what doesn’t help is that I have this inability to say no to most things. When you sit on the chemo suite surrounded by patients who become your extended family and treated by nurses and doctors who become friends you cannot help but think. Think about what their lives must be like. It has been those thoughts and the constant battle to understand what is important in my life that has occupied much of my time.
For the majority of the last few weeks of my treatment I felt so lousy that simply getting from one day to the next became my task. Gradually chemotherapy ended and life had to continue. Yet my perspective on life has changed, probably forever. The focus of what is and isn’t important has changed and so has my outlook on many things.
Seeing many others going through chemotherapy you become aware that some may not have as bright a future as the one I might hopefully have. We would all sit there going bald very quickly. I would be the one wrapped in layers upon layers of clothing to keep me warm and wearing a beanie hat because I didn’t like the no hair look. Yet next to me would be these woman all proudly showing off either shaved heads or their complete baldness. Wrongly I assumed that they would be more affected by the hair loss than any man. They all looked fabulous yet I knew that for some the journey would almost certainly not end well. In those few moments you realise how precious life really is.
It is very easy when you spend most of your time managing life threatening conditions to live life based on percentages. Survival rates, and the chance of x or y returning are all based of best-guessed percentages. It becomes very easy to become all consumed by them. I think that has changed as a result of the big C. As an intestinal transplant patient I have never believed that I will be on the wrong side of odds game. With cancer I suddenly became worried that it was inevitable that I would be part of the x% who would have issues again in the future. It can take over your life. So sitting in a room with other patients made my just realise that you can’t live your life that way. It delivers perspective.
People often say live life to the max. It is quite a glib throw away line. I have learnt that actually there is real truth in sticking to those principles. I try very hard each day not to think about the health consequences in my life. Not to get caught up in the petty issues that consume many of us each day. But it isn’t easy. That is why this block post is called perspectives. It is all about putting things in perspective. What seems like such a big drama may, in reality, be of no real consequence compared to what really matters.
I would challenge each one of you every day to do something very difficult. Ask yourself whether the issue in front of you is as bad as you think or as important as you believe it is at that moment. Then try and put it in perspective. Think about others because believe me there is always someone whose decision in front of them is worse than yours or more important than yours. My health journey has in some strange way helped me in life. It has taught me to become decisive in making decisions, to weigh up all the options and then have the courage to make a choice. It has made me more aware of others and hopefully made me a bit of a better person. That is the real irony I think for so many patients. The decisions we have to make at the time of the most severe stress are often done with the clearest head and with the strongest convictions.