Friday, 28 February 2014

The length of time

Dear world,

6 months have passed since we got the horrible news about F. 6 months!
Exactly half a year ago, I was sitting in his parents house, thinking how strange it was to be spending time with his parents and sleeping in his bed, without him there. It's been 6 months, and I'm still not sure I have completely understood what happened.

When you are diagnosed with such a serious disease, the doctors and nurses and help-organisation-people etc. tell you a lot of things of what to expect. They tell you about the treatment plans and about side effects. They tell you how the illness may affect your relationships with the people closest to you and what type of changes you may need to make in your life. They give you all the facts that they can.
Well one thing they can't tell you is how long time 6 months is! How it just keeps on going and going and going. You don't know what's going to happen, you don't know how it's going to end, you don't know when there will be good days and when there will be bad. You wake up every single morning, and the same feeling is just there: the feeling that something is wrong but you have to just continue with your life.

So you do that. You force yourself out of bed, you make breakfast and shower, because you know that these things need to be done. So you might as well do them, just to stay active. Some days it's easy, and you enjoy having something to do, you may even have plans coming up that you look forward to. Other days it's a battle to get out of bed, because you can't remember what the point really is. You do your job, you go shopping, you cook dinner, you check your email, you wash your clothes, you open the letters from the bank. But ever so often the feelings arise again. The feelings that you can't influence what really matters. The feelings that there are such crucial things you don't know yet. Feelings of pointlessness and helplessness. Ever so often it becomes a battle to just pass though life and make time go by. Ever so often you realise that what you are really trying to achieve the most, is to get to the point where you know for sure whether he is going to be alright.

Patience really is one of the hardest things to learn. Cancer proves that to you. Cause you don't have a choice: the only option is to be patient. If you can't be patient, then too bad for you: the world won't tell you how it's all going to end. It just seems to stretch on forever. And 6 months is a long time!
In my particular case, we are currently no further than we were 6 months ago. F has just started on a new chemo-drug, and hopefully this one will work. Assuming it does, he is looking at 4-6 months of chemo, followed by a stem cell transplant and possibly some radiation as well. That is the exact same outlook the doctors gave us half a year ago. It can be so unbelievably frustrating to not move forward at all. And there is just nothing to do about it, you have to just keep going, keep living your life, keep waiting.

How do you learn to be patient? You fill your life with other things that take your mind off what's difficult. And that's easier said than done. When you are waiting for such crucial news, the biggest temptation is to just put your life on hold, and really indulge in the waiting and brood over the outcome. It would be so easy to just forget about work and forget about hobbies and forget about catching up with friends, and just succumb to a state of constant waiting and worrying. To let the cancer take up the vast majority of your thoughts.
And I have no doubt that that would be a sure way to get a depression!

No, you have to spend every day forcing yourself to add meaning to your life. Meaning in the form of things that are completely unrelated to the cancer. No matter how pointless your studies or work may seem compared to the people you care about, it is important to keep working, keeping that part of your life alive and interesting. Forcing yourself to consider the little issues and victories that go with the work, and thereby feeding your brain distractions from the cancer. Meeting up with friends and talking about trivial everyday stuff. The more stuff you can fill your head with, which gives your life meaning regardless of how the cancer progresses, the easier it is to get distracted from the waiting, and to accept the uncertainty. The easier it is to be patient.

I am not sure how well I am succeeding in this. My grades have dropped quite a bit compared to last year, but at least I am still studying, and still aiming to finish on time. I spend less time with friends now than I did a year ago, but that may also just be due to circumstances having changed and friends having moved further away. There are many days where I push myself a lot, and with a good result. Days where I am active and constructive and feel happy and determined and strong. But there are also many days where nothing seems to matter to me and my mind seems to be covered in a sad mist that just makes it impossible to really care about being strong and moving forward. Days where I question my own mental health and where happiness and contentment just seem to be impossibly far down the road.

I guess all you can do is take it day by day, and learn to be patient and give your life meaning for what it is worth today.


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