|Sunset over Cayton, copyright Janine Harrington|
This time was different as I stood at the door waving after the departing figure of my daughter. This time it felt as if I was saying a final farewell to all that has been and still is.
Memories and experiences shine like bright stars in a night sky.
Each morning was remarkable because there was someone else in the house. I felt reassured. Safe. Unexpectedly looking forward to what the new day might bring. We'd share breakfast, then wander into the village, mooching around the shops, wondering which cafe to pick for lunch. Yes, the pain kicked in even as I left the house. I yearned to be able to get down the cobbled hill trailing down to the sea. I stood at the top, watching longingly the blue calm waters stretching out in the sun below, aching to have a cone in my hand, licking at ice-cream, rather than constantly having to rub my legs back to life, easing them tenderly one to the other, pushing my back against a wall to ensure I remained standing.
The days we spent together were like summer, enriched by new blooms out early, children with buckets and spades, jackets laid aside in favour of 'T' shirts, and bright colours everywhere I looked. I hadn't been out in so long. My home is my world now. I found it invigorating to see everything looking so vibrant, so rich, filled with life, laughter, chatter, noise. I wished I could keep pace with my daughter's quick steps as she flitted here and there, yearning to have the ability to 'speed walk', to be without pain.
In an evening, we'd settle to a film before playing a board game from childhood, smoothing back the pages of Time to when she was a child ... then again, to when I was young playing these same games with my parents.
The same warmth and glow of love reached around us like a fluffy blanket on a cold winter's day.
The house settles and becomes still. Silent as a grave. I wander aimlessly from room to room as if seeking all our yesterdays, while the echo of her voice trips and follows, laughter rippling the air.
Slowly, shadows deepen. Darken. Lengthen. Stretching out to become permanent night.
The familiar returns, dragging me reluctantly with it, reminding me of the way things really are. My bubble bursts, and with the death of a memory comes a sick, draggy, groggy, achy, ill feeling reaching in and through me, invading my body which suddenly becomes a stranger ... yet it is the reality of the way Life is today.
Pain kicks in despite the Morphine ... then something more. Something unexpected. My head pounds with pain, a drum about to burst. The rhythm and beat grow stronger with every heartbeat, and suddenly I lose vision either side which morphs into a long dark endless tunnel, a tiny pinprick of light at the farthest end.
My hands reach around me, seeking the familiar, but everything has changed. Different. Darkness is always the enemy, and I struggle to block memories pushing through from bygone years. I can't afford to lead into PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress) ... not now!!
Within the hour, I am experiencing the worst migraine I have ever had in my life!
I recall my first when I was around eleven years old. I can still feel the stool beneath me, the keys at my fingertips as I play the piano for the morning service, my father in the pulpit. Notes blur. The music slips and slithers. All I can see is one small note at a time. Somehow I finish the piece, listen to people sit down in their chairs, before slowly I make my way, feeling along the far wall, out to the toilet where I'm violently sick.
I thought I was going blind!
I told no-one at the time, just went to bed, drawing the curtains, the blankets rolled comfortingly around me, gripped in a vice of fear. Only years later did I share this experience with Mum and discovered she too used to suffer with bad migraines. It helped to know I wasn't alone.
But this is different because ... I AM ALONE!
I can't see the phone never mind the numbers on it to ring. But then, who would I ring anyway? Like the Child of yester-year, I crawl up the stairs to bed ... the safe, the familiar, snuggling down beneath the duvet, wishing the world away.
|Trapped in Winter, artist Janine Harrington|
It has been a week since all this began. Nobody knows. What makes the isolation worse is that I still don't have one-to-one support as promised by Macmillan. I feel abandoned. Betrayed. I went into the Hospice just before Christmas ... every Thursday for eight weeks. It was wonderful! So bright, colourful, everyone so kind and patient, listening and understanding, cups of tea on hand, people who feel the same. Since then, I felt calmed and secure in the knowledge I need never be alone. Always, there would be someone to talk to, to care, to listen and understand what it is I'm going through.
But then, in the outside world, it's different. Reality kicks in. I live alone. I AM alone.
I am learning there are many layers to Cancer. It isn't just the physical that interrupts Life as it was, leaving you on 'Pause'. A sadness reaching in and through my whole being is a natural occurrence. A reaction to loss ... loss of the way things were, how I could be, where I was going in life, dreams, what I'd love to do whenever my daughter comes to stay. There are no longer new beginnings ... only an End. I think about how hard it must be on her, the incredible patience she needs, the frustration she must feel. We don't see one another that often, so it's all the more wonderful when she comes to break the monotony of days alone. But then, this sadness can take me into one further level, carrying with it depression, fear of anything I'm not used to, even fear of going outside, being in the world around me, part of the cluster of people, even having friends visit.
Feeling frightened and anxious is also a natural reaction, especially as it affects my ability to cope with day-to-day life. I wake with a terrible feeling of dread. Panic attacks are rife. It quickens the heartbeat. Steps across the border between emotional/mental and physical, to include:
- an inability to concentrate
- frustration at not being able to do the things I used to
- constant feeling of dread
- a dry mouth ... especially sucked dry at night by the tablets I take before sleep
- utter exhaustion most of the time
- digestive problems
- loss of interest in food and other things I enjoy, including writing
These are indicative of the next layer to anxiety ... Depression.
Cancer can make you feel sad. It's a natural occurrence. A low mood can continue to get worse. I've had depression before in my life, and had a breakdown. I understand these emotions. But understanding them doesn't make them any easier to cope with, or help relieve their symptoms:
- I cry oceans of tears
- My mood is low most of the time
- I feel very alone, very afraid, especially during evenings and at night
- I have difficulty making decisions
- I find it incredibly difficult to see other people, even putting up my usual 'front'
- I'm awake early
- I have an overwhelming tiredness and exhaustion
- I also have a loss of appetite ... and I love my food!!
The stress of having Cancer, not knowing how long I have, causes me to manically list things I need to finish before 'The End'. It gives me something constructive to do, something positive which can come out of all this negativity ... and there's also the book I've promised to write for St Catherine's Hospice. I'm having no treatment. I now have pain management by way of Morphine, and my usual cocktail of pills for other serious disabilities. But there's no-one to check on the progress of the Cancer or how far its spread.
All these listed above are emotional effects of Cancer.
In this, I know I'm not alone.
There must be thousands of people out there in the wider world who feel exactly the same way. It would be wonderful to come together, to find out how each of us copes, or not, with feelings which create barriers to our everyday lives. I believe in Self-Help Groups. Sharing is an extremely positive way to identify new and innovative aids.
Just knowing you're not alone is a main source of strength, offering the ability to face another day.
|Copyright: Janine Harrington|