Safety Bubbles

Life right now feels like I’m on some kind of crazy hamster wheel and I can’t get off. I’m completely fixated on what I need to do and where I need to be, going full pelt in the hope that I get there a lot quicker. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. I need to accept that these things take time and that I can’t just sprint to the finish line breaking all records. (That’s my competitive side coming out).

Cutting myself some slack and taking my foot off the pedal is the first thing I need to do, but that’s easier said than done. I have created an agenda in my head about what I should be doing and a time frame in which I should do it, which is simply: “Do it! Whatever it takes, do it now and don’t stop until it’s over”.

The problem is that ever since this all started I have had places in the world in which I feel safe, and things which I do that make me feel like I still somehow have some control over what is happening to me. These are my safety bubbles. Anything outside of those bubbles can be either too much to deal with, simply not productive in my view or just plain scary.

comfortzone

Things are most definitely getting easier though and my safety bubbles are growing and merging all the time. There was a time when the hospital and my home were the only bubbles I had. Then I discovered the cancer support centre and that became a bubble. It took a while for the office to be added to the list but it’s there now.

The key I’ve found, is to take baby steps out of my comfort zone in to an area that will challenge and stretch me, whilst trying to remember to not do too much, too soon (not easy if you’re as impatient as I am). If at any time what I’m doing feels really uncomfortable and I start to panic, I know I’ve gone too far and need to take a couple of steps back.

Setting small goals is a great place to start. My goal is quite simply to cut myself some slack for 1 hour twice a week. To take the time to relax, go for a walk, read a book, spend time with friends – whatever it is I need to do to, to switch off from everything I think and feel I should be doing.

I used the following diagram to plot how balanced my life is right now. Grading each area from 0-10, 10 being the best it can be. Then joining up the dots to see where I needed to focus.

wheel-of-lifeHere is my chart. The green area is where I was pre-diagnosys. The red is where I am now.

wheel-of-life-2

The New You

55,000 women and 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK. Helping with the waking reality of that every day is where the charity Breast Cancer Care comes in – providing specialist support and vital information to cancer patients, families and friends when it’s most needed.

Whether you’ve had a lumpectomy or a mascectomy, you will have a visual reminder of what you have been through. Getting to know the new you and accepting your new life is not an easy road to walk.

Breast Cancer Care are launching a campaign to highlight their role in supporting cancer sufferers during and after treatment. The ads feature pictures of women with their mastectomy scars, aiming to show that it is possible to find confidence after breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Care’s head of communications and marketing, Jane Heath, says: “The images are meant to be powerful and striking rather than shocking. This campaign is about helping people find confidence after a breast cancer diagnosis and so we felt it was important to show women feeling comfortable with their bodies and with themselves and sharing a little of their experience. And yes, to show that we’re here to provide support as a specialist breast cancer support charity.”

During yesterdays Moving Forward Workshop run by Breast Cancer Care, we were encouraged to write a letter of support to ourselves that would then be posted back to us in a month or so. The thought of writing such a letter was quite daunting at first so I decided not to over think it, to just write whatever came in to my head. Once my pen hit the page the words just started to flow.

There was so much I wanted to say about how well I thought I had done, how I had already achieved a huge goal by setting up this blog site and how it had already started to help others. I wanted to encourage myself to keep going, to let go of the past and to embrace the new. To keep in touch with the new friends I had made and to remember to make time for myself. To not beat myself up about where I should be or how I should be feeling but to just accept life and enjoy it.

I sealed my letter and handed in.

Source: Marketing Week and Breast Cancer Care

A Rocky Road But Where’s The Chocolate!?

It’s hard to understand why when the surgery and treatment is over we’re not celebrating, moving on and simply getting on with our lives.

I certainly didn’t understand it but have come to realise, as many other cancer patients do, that the cancer journey has only just begun and surgery was just the start of it.

Up until that point I was in survival mode. I did what I needed to do to get rid of the disease but when the treatment stopped, and I had time to reflect on what had happened, that’s when it hit me, like an express train coming down the track at full speed with all its headlights on and sirens sounding.

Yesterday was the last day of my Moving Forward Workshop with Breast Cancer Care. We talked about the cancer journey and what it looks like. The graph below, provided by LYLAC (Live Your Life After Cancer) sums it up perfectly.

Cancer Journey

The horizontal line across the middle of the graph with the gold stars is time. Moving from left to right from the moment we get the diagnosis in to the future. How long in terms of months/years that represents is different for all of us.

The top half of the graph illustrates what happens to us emotionally and physically during that period. The bottom half shows what is happening to our lives, the range of emotions we experience and the questions we may be asking ourselves.

The Red Bit
From the moment we are diagnosed to the day we complete our treatment we are in survival mode – focused on what needs to be done, our bodies take the biggest blow. This is when we are under the care of our medical teams and when we may receive most support from friends and family.

The Green Bit
When we leave hospital and the treatment has ended we hit rock bottom. Our bodies are slowly recovering from the fallout but emotionally we are running out of steam. Family and friends may think we are done with cancer and think that we’re fine, but we’re not. Life has changed. As much as we desperately want our old lives back we slowly come to realise that the old life is simply just that, an old way of doing things. We need to get to know the new us.

For me the dotted green line on this graph would have many more highs and lows. I have had the most incredible lows followed by highs of days where it doesn’t feel like anything has really happened. Then whoosh! Something comes out of nowhere, for no reason and smacks me down again. Its almost as if someone is shouting: Hey! You! Don’t forget whats just happened. Don’t you dare get comfortable. Its not over yet Sister. This is my rocky road but it is becoming more even as time goes on. 

When my treatment was over I felt very lost and alone. The support of the medical team had gone and I was falling apart. I didn’t know where to turn or who to talk to. My life saver was my local Wessex Cancer Trust Centre. Its one of many charity centres set up to help cancer patients through those difficult times.

My other saving grace was going to workshops like the Moving Forward one set up by Breast Cancer Care. Meeting women who are on the same journey helps enormously and being able to have expert help and advice on how to make sense of it all is absolutely priceless. Although the course has come to an end now we have decided to stay in touch. There is even talk of setting up a Nordic Walking group, which would be fantastic!