When I think back to the week after my first chemo I feel a tight darkness in my chest as it was hell on earth. I didn’t sleep one wink for five whole days and nights, after I took a reaction to my sickness pills, extreme insomnia is horrendous. However, what does shine through is the memory of watching the sun rise on a beautiful July morning and realising through the adrenaline and steroid fuelled insomnia torture that I had stopped seeing the wonders in life. That awful week took me to an unbearable rock bottom where I sobbed on the couch as my little girl and boy looked on scared and bewildered that their usually strong and bossy mummy was truly broken. Even writing this now months later makes my eyes sting with tears.
What that week did give me was a bizarre clarity, it burnt away all the fuzz, worries and ideas that usually swamped my busy mind. It made me see so clearly what was important in my life and how many amazing sights we miss as we are so consumed in our stupidly busy lives. I have always been a little hyper and hated my own company. I think this started when I was a teenager as a way of coping with the stress of having an alcoholic mother. I got down and felt upset on my own so I remember consciously thinking if I kept busy and made lots of plans with my friends, I literally wouldn’t have time to feel sad. This has been my life model really, to the point I drive my husband crazy with all the things I want to get done yesterday, I’m impossibly impatient. Becoming a mum of two and running my own online shop had taken my busy life to a whole new level of hectic; school/nursery runs, afterschool clubs, parties, playdates, trips and outings, homework, cooking, cleaning, working nights ……. constantly all day, every day. I was doing what most mums do, its no easy job but I was doing it at a hell of a fast pace without coming up for breath. It was exhausting and depressing. I couldn’t understand how other mums could do it all and seem so much better at it than me.
This is where cancer loses his (we all know it’s a guy!) horns and devil tail and becomes the good guy for a fleeting moment because he forced me kicking and screaming to slow down and appreciate what matters. Cancer had made me stop and cuddle my kids a little longer instead of moaning about the mess they make, see my husband for the amazing man I fell in love with instead of getting mad when he doesn’t take the bins out, enjoy walks along the canal with my dogs instead of seeing it as another chore on a huge list, laze in the garden on a sunny day sipping a cold drink instead or tackling the mountain of washing and sit on the couch with a blanket and my cosy little fur balls cuddling in while I write my blog instead of doing the pile of dishes in the kitchen. It’s made me stop trying to do everything all at once and start picking the things that are more fun or important and do them better.
I imagine that this is true for a lot of people who have gone through cancer or other life changing experiences, the thought of losing everything makes you see what you’ve got and how amazing it truly is. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate my life before I was diagnosed with cancer, I think I just didn’t give myself any time to take it in and really see how bloody amazing it was. My brain was always going so fast, processing and planning 10 things at a time, I didn’t get a second to stop and enjoy the present. I was constantly distracted and multi tasking, I felt like this was the only way to get everything done in a day when in fact what I needed was less in my day. Picture yourself travelling in a car, when you drive slowly you can take in the beautiful views but if you are going at 100 miles an hour everything goes by so fast you don’t get a chance to enjoy any of it.
So the one thing cancer has taught me is to SLOW the hell down! Us mums are pretty incredible but we’re not invincible, we need a rest. So give your poor brain a break, grab a cuppa and biscuit, sit your butt down and watch the clouds roll by cos they are pretty damn cool.