It's been some time since I checked in on how things are going.
I figure now is as good as time as any on the eve of the official end to my first "week" back at work. It's been exactly one year since I left. Time moved infinitely slowly through some stages and now it's speeding up again. I've requested the return to work I feel it's the right thing for me and my family and my workplace. I get to see how this goes before I jump back in full time at the start of next year So two days a week it is.
I was apprehensive to say the least and yet again surprised by how different it was to what I expected. I met with my GP who is managing my return to work last Thursday and he shared his own experience of being off for a year after a serious illness. He warned me it wasn't easy. You'd think after all this time I'd listen to what drs had to say. He was right.
I suspected, but now I know for sure, my brain doesn't work the same any more and while my friends joke with me that even with a dodgy brain I'm still working faster than some. I am not sure I agree. I worry that the expectation is that soon I'll be who I was. Without sounding defeatist I am not and won't ever be again.
It took me nearly two hours to work out how to find things under a "new to me" operating system on Microsoft Office 2010. After failing to work it out myself, I ended up asking two different people to show me the same things so I could finally get it. GGGRRRR. In happier news though I am in love with One Note and am about to search to find how I can use it on my mac as well- I hope there is a way. If so I will be ditching Evernote.
Today I packed up half way through the day - knowing if I didn't leave soon I wouldn't be fit to drive. I was so mentally exhausted. I had a meeting with a colleague too who I also know personally and he questioned where I was with what he calls my "art". I didn't really have an answer. It upset me not to be able to share a plan. I hate that this disease has taken away who I was. There is much talk in cancer circles of the new normal. I'm not loving the new normal for me in a professional sense. It's hard enough in an everyday sense let alone in a work setting.
The tiredness comes from nowhere and catches me unawares. My girls get upset and and frustrated with me when they are trying to tell me half a dozen things at once and I have to tell them to stop. I see the worry in Richard's eyes when I am over tired and my words don't come easily or end up all blurred.
I find myself becoming over anxious about little things - did I close the door? Have I turned off my straightening iron? Did I confirm that appointment? While before I used to ask myself those things and shrug it off now I have to catch myself from the question becoming an outright code red OMG I left the straightening iron on so the house will burn down the neighbours will all die and it's all my fault. It's not rational.
I ask for dates and times over and over again. Sometimes within minutes of just asking. I pull out of the driveway and have to stop to remind myself which way I am going. I can't add numbers anymore- Richard would argue that I have never been able to LOL. I go to the store and find myself chanting the three things I have to get and then standing in the checkout with just two things knowing there was a third and getting teary because I can't remember. I know to write a list and more often than not I do - but I resent that I have to.
This is the everyday normal stuff how will I be at work when I have to start talking acronyms and time lines and systems? I worry that my brain will just explode and pour out my ears from trying to decipher everything --- > see not rational!!!
Still I count my blessings as my doctors have said no teaching just admin - so I'm figuring if the worst happens I'm only going to be making a mess of paper work. My work colleagues are amazingly empathetic even down to coming to find me to make sure I have morning tea ( I hide away in the quiet ). I am so so lucky.
This is the story that doesn't get told. It's the mop up afterwards. Of course we rejoice the NED ( no evidence of disease) and we give thanks the blip in life is over, but now I know there's a whole new journey just about to begin. Apart from pushing back the everpresent thoughts of recurrence, I am learning that through treatment there are side effects which range from annoying to outright debilitating but after treatment there are what I'm calling after effects. No one talks about them though. As long as you look normal - have hair something that resembles breasts or appropriate clothes so that it's not noticeable and your scars are hidden then we are all good.
I'm not saying that I am not good to go - I feel like I am. I am certainly one of the fortunate ones in that my scars are hidden and I do have hair and I do look normal. But I think that it's important to be honest about how it really is.
The media perpetuates the "pretty pink ribbon concept" - with high profile people back doing their thing within weeks of diagnosis making us mere mortals seem weak and hypochondriacs in comparison. I want you to know its not like that for the vast vast vast majority.
This month is of course Pink Ribbon Month If you get a chance to attend a Pink ribbon function please do. We will be at this Pink Breakfast over the week - if you are local or in Brisbane/Sunshine Coast please consider making the trek to New Farm Park - it's a wonderful day my friend Margie ( a breast cancer survivor ) has been running for 7 ish years now and the kids always have a great time. Wonderful raffles and fab food all supplied. 9 - 12pm. RSVP through this link and shoot me an email if you are coming so I know to look out for you.
If you are further away then please consider making a donation to my lovely friend Alison. She had 2 surgeries, 6 rounds of chemo and 6 weeks of daily radiation. Alison was living out west so had a total of 16 flights last year for treatment, with her 2 year old. She travelled every 3 weeks for chemo and stayed in Brisbane for 6 weeks for radiation. She is paying it back by completing the Triathlon Pink in November - a 300m swim, 9km bike ride and 3km run. So inspiring.
Finally, If you can't attend a function or donate then maybe just pop over to this site - The Scar Project - Breast Cancer is not a Pink Ribbon. Amazing real images.
"A visual world few have seen where grace, guts, pain, and femininity all cross paths to expose a deeply moving side of humanity."
Ok I am off my little soap box now - thank you for walking with me.