What’s been the emotional impact of having blood cancer?

What’s been the emotional impact of having blood cancer?


My coping mechanism
throughout my diagnosis and the treatment and everything
was, I put all my emotions in a little box,
put it in the back of my head and I was so focused
on, “I’m going to beat it. I’m going to beat
it.” Then when I got the all clear and I was
really, really happy. I just remember sat there
thinking, “Right, I better go back to work.” I was feeling
so low and still so anxious. I really,
really struggled to sleep and eat. I had nowhere to live. I couldn’t afford anywhere
because I couldn’t go back on full-time hours
because of the fatigue. I used to live with my sister in
Liverpool, commute to Manchester. So exhausted, constantly
crying, couldn’t sleep still. Essentially, I was homeless. I couldn’t get any
support from my GP. It was like,
once I find somewhere to live in Manchester it’ll be
okay, I’ll be fine. I did that and I still wasn’t okay. Essentially,
I was really fortunate my sister was in the
medical profession. She pulled me aside
and she was just like, “How you’re feeling,
it’s not normal. You should really go, maybe see a GP
about it because this has probably affected you way more
than you realise.” It took a lot of convincing to go. Initially,
the GP wanted to give me some medications, some
anti-anxiety, antidepressants. When your body’s been battered
and abused with medication, the last thing you want to
do is take more medication. It took a lot of convincing
and I’m glad I did. I went into survival mode
in trying to protect everyone else. I felt so guilty
that I’ve got cancer. I could see everyone else
around me hurting because of me, even though I
didn’t cause cancer myself. It was still my body
which had cancer and I caused all this pain,
and it was torture. I couldn’t look at
people in the eyes. Then I put all my focus in doing my
teacher training and getting there. I did it and I thought, “Well, I’ve
got everything I was aiming for.” The end of last year it hit
me, I wasn’t sleeping, I’d go to work on
three hours sleep. Literally,
I don’t know how I was surviving. I went to my GP and I put off
the medication for a while. I was like, “No.
No.” Then it came to Christmas and I just
crumbled to my GP. I struggled with
the lack of support, like everybody thinks
you’re in remission you’re all happy and it’s all
wonderful, and life’s back to normal. And it wasn’t for me. I still have the scars of having
cancer, even though it’s not visible. I’ve got my hair back, my eyebrows aren’t patchy anymore. Like they’re no
longer a zebra crossing thank God because it
wasn’t a good look. [chuckles] It was horrific. [laughter] I couldn’t understand why
I felt so rubbish and I felt so low, and everybody was like, “You should
be living your life to the best. You’re here, you’re lucky.”
I was like, “I’m not.” I don’t feel lucky.”
Last week my meds got increased. I felt embarrassed
and I’ve had to fight to get counselling but I just started it. I did not realise how
much cancer had impacted on my mental health and
my perspective of life. I feel a bit
different than that, because I don’t feel like I’ve–
I’m very open about everything. I feel shut off from the
emotions side of it, so I’m like,
“I’m not going to let it take that kind of
side of me.” I’ve always tried to see it like
a positive in it. At first I didn’t cry. I’ve not really cried. I’ve had the odd moments,
obviously, you will get down days. I feel like I’ve not really
sat down and thought of it. Maybe because I’m on this treatment
for life and I’m always going to have this cancer, I’m just not letting it take that side of
me, do you know like. I think you shouldn’t
put pressure on yourself. Everybody’s different. It hits you
at different times. It will probably
hit me sometime in the future. Yes, it’s going to
hit me at the worst time. I’m four years in
remission and it’s coming out like a train out of nowhere and just
come straight into my face. I’m like, “Whoa, I was
diagnosed five years this year. Why now is it hitting me
so bad?” It takes on a long time to process actually
what we’ve gone through. Like our bodies have changed. We’ve had to face fears which we
never thought we’d have to face. Like when you think
of the word cancer, you think death straight away. That’s what I feel. At 21 I shouldn’t have to think
that I’m not going to die. It’s only once I’ve done what I
wanted to do, is I’ve taken a step back and actually realised, “Whoa,
what have I actually gone through?” I think for me,
when it really hit me was, yes, the realisation that I might not
be able to have children. I think it was at the point
when I was trying to move on with my life that it
really hit me the hardest that these expectations and
these aspirations I had, I had to go through a long
period of self reflection. My doctors told me, “We don’t
know if you will be able to have kids or not, but if you do you
need to start having them now.” At that time I didn’t have
anybody and I was nowhere near getting married and having
kids or anything like that. Just having to go through that re-evaluation process
of– I think the one thing that I learnt for me
is, all these other things are just that they’re not the be all and end
all, and if I can still live my life and be happy, if they’re meant to be, they’re meant to
be, but if they’re not, they’re not.