The Rough And The Smooth

I used to find it so clichè when people described having cancer as being on a rollercoaster, but at the moment, it feels like one of the best ways to easily articulate daily life living with stage 4 melanoma.

In my previous post I mentioned that amazing news that my last PET CT scan results were stable. Despite this, I have felt very up and down over the past three weeks. Sometimes I find living with the side effects of cancer treatment can be harder that having the treatment itself.

Sadly the results don’t mean all my side effects from taking Pembrolizumab disappear over night, it’s probably quite the opposite as somehow I feel more aware of my body than ever before. Living with cancer has so many ups and downs, it’s mentally challenging and know from experience that the good news can change to bad very quickly.

Last week I dreamt I had five brain tumours, not one, but five! Negative thoughts like this will always haunt me, and dark clouds will follow me around wherever I go. I worry so much, particularly about getting a brain tumour. I had one removed when I was initially diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2010 so for me this isn’t an irrational thought.

Over the past few weeks I have been attending regular CBT sessions in order to help me managed my anxiety surrounding my diagnosis and the depression that comes with it. It is hard to accept that having been labelled as terminally ill it essentially means I am dying. It might not be today, or tomorrow, or in a month or perhaps even a year, but one day cancer will get the better of me. For all those people who suggest I could get hit by bus tomorrow and die instantly so I shouldn’t worry; trust me it is not that same thing. At the moment I’m taking each day as it comes, taking the rough with the smooth so to speak. When I’m in a negative spiral it can often take a little longer to ride out, even though I try to be a positive as possible.

According to the NHS website, Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.

It’s most commonly used to treat depression and anxiety, and is based on the idea that negative thoughts and feelings can trap a person in a vicious cycle. The therapy aims to help people deal with problems that feel overwhelming in a more positive way, by breaking them down into smaller parts. Essentially learning how to change negative patterns and become more positive, looking for practical ways to improve a persons state of mind.

Through my experience so far I think CBT has been beneficial, however as I write this I am mid hospital appointment, having just broken down in tears. A hospital is the last place I’d ever want to be, but I don’t have a choice about coming to have treatment. Sometimes it’s all too much, even if the appointments are running to time. It’s not one particular thing that makes me emotional, it’s the whole treatment process. A classic example of a day which had been pretty unstable; I feel like I’ve experienced so many emotions in one afternoon. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day and the CBT will continue to help me move forward living with cancer.

This July marks two years on current wonder drug Pembrolizumab and 7.5 years of living with stage 4 melanoma. Any tips on helping manage emotions would be much appreciated.

8 thoughts on “The Rough And The Smooth

  1. So understandable your mix of feelings, despite your good scan results. (Daft comments re being hit by a bus are pointless. Often said when people want to binge drink or generally neglect their health) There has been much publicity re high profile illness of Tessa J this week, so possibly adding to your active mind. I hope your CBT continues to help you in the here & now. Thank you for sharing💚

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  2. Good read Jolene. I got my ‘it’s good news they’re stable’ CT results yesterday. You have hit the nail with the other stuff around it. I should be ‘happy’ but being terminal and waiting for the cliff edge to give way is a tough one along with the never ending side effects of treatment. It’s always helpful to read others’ insight though. It’s like an I’m not alone in this feeling, yes, it is normal to feel like this, so thank you. All the best. Kevin.

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  3. Hope today is a better day for you Jo. Your blogs are so honest and give such an insight into what it is like living with stage 4 melanoma. Good to hear that the CBT is helping.

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  4. Sending hugs! I hope CBT keeps helping you, as well as the chemo drug (and that more and more drugs are being constantly developed). For me, when a family member was ill, prayer helped…I was (and still am, a decade later:) asking God, Jesus for support and comfort. Any kind of prayers, short or long. For people who see Mary as an intercessor to her Son, there is a prayer out there on the web called “The Akathist to the Theotokos: Healer of Cancer”…I’ve found it comforting and a source of strength and support back then and now. But any prayer helped.

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  5. Hi Jolene. I always think that after reading your blog l can offer words of wisdom that will make you feel a bit better about your situation, but try as l might it’s so difficult. What l do have however is my thoughts and prayers and support for you. I know that it probably doesn’t help, but it’s all l have to give. Have a lovely Birthday weekend. XX Bob.

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