Through cancer treatment, the sole goal is survival. Adrenaline fills the body so thoroughly that it robs us of the ability of multi-tasked thought. Chemo fogs. Often, it's just about getting from day to day.
Yet even after treatment finishes, it can take months, sometimes years for this adrenaline, fog and trauma to clear. When it does, there can be some undesirable consequences.
At first, there might be an emptiness in the pit of your stomach. But when the relief of survival begins to dissipate, all that space in your heart that was so full of the adrenaline of cancer survival is looking for some other hot, wrenching feeling to fill it. Your mind suddenly becomes alive.
Like a Bad Hangover
Remission can hold all the bleak existential dread of a bad hangover. The euphoria of survival, like alcohol, is burnt away to be replaced by paranoia. Much like drunkenness, cancer treatment can stop you from thinking properly, only for the next-day stark light of the 'remission hangover' to batter you with reality. You worry for the future.
During treatment I did what the doctors told me to do - I didn't have any other choice. I didn't really need to think, or direct my own life.
But once I was 'NED' and stopped treatment, I found that there was a lot more space in my mind for 'thinking' and all the choices available to me were too much.
I found myself preoccupied with repetitive thoughts. I'd circle into a world of worry about the future. I was angry too. Why did this happen to me? I looked for ways to blame myself, or the world around me.
I try to take a deep breath and push the thoughts away. I tried to take control of my mind again, finding distractions and positive actions. Time seems the only healer, so in the meantime I knew I needed to distract myself. The most useful activities for me were gardening and learning French - it sounds silly but they both did help.
With gardening - my garden was always an outright mess, an embarrassment really! I've never been a keen gardener but sitting with my hands in the soil and the breeze on my cheeks really helped. I love it now and I'm even thinking of getting an allotment.
I've also been learning French at my local college once a week. Because I'm 'disabled' I get a discount on the course costs and it's nice getting out of the house, but also having homework to focus on through the week too. I've got addicted to Duolingo, so if my mind wanders, I try to load it up.
I don't always succeed to distract myself and occupy my mind, but trying to do so is the first step!