Saturday, 16 July 2011

Tomorrow Never Dies...

I guess everyone has one of those days.

The sort of the day when you wake up, you look out of the window and regardless of how bright the sky might be, you feel grey inside. You spend the rest of the day trying to shake this feeling of heaviness. You try a spot of retail therapy, you treat yourself to your favourite dessert, you call a friend and gossip about the ins and outs of her private life. You even resort to buying a glossy magazine. But nothing works. You glance at the faces of your fellow commuters and city dwellers and regardless of how young, old, black or white the person is standing next to you, suddenly everyone feels like an alien.

I had one of those days recently.  Now as you know, it really isn't my style to wallow in self-pity and drone on and on about what a terrible card life has dealt me. Nature has made me far too much of a pragmatist for that and besides, if I thought that for just one second it might change the course of events, believe me, I would be one of the first out there to practise a bit of self-flagellation. Because sadly, for every Why Me ? question that I could ask myself, there are countless other (and worse) examples of Why He or She ? to contend with.

But a few days ago I felt differently. I awoke again in the early hours of the morning to find fluid leaking from my wound once more. This time as I knew why it was happening, I felt less panicked than before. But it still took both of us to get up, place some dressings on the wound and mop up with fluid before retiring back to bed to await the morning. I had already planned a trip to the hospital as I had a feeling I would start to leak again by midweek. But I couldn't sleep. I spent the next few hours trying desperately to keep still so that the fluid wouldn't burst out of the wound and gush onto the mattress. In the morning we dropped baby A off to nursery, then we drove to the hospital where we were told that I couldn't see a doctor until 12.30pm. I lay on a table while one of the nurses changed my dressings and mopped up the fluid (officially called seroma) until it stopped. She then told me that the best thing to do was to add a stoma bag (the kind that you normally use for colostomies) onto the wound to catch the fluid. In two days time I should return to have it changed if the fluid was still leaking. A few hours later I saw a doctor, who told me that I might possibly have an infection. The antibiotics given to me previously by my surgeon had had no effect and if things get really bad and the infection doesn't shift, they might have to open me up again.

I know. Some of this sounds like no big deal and some of it sounds terrible. Normally I would always lean towards the former, telling myself that things are never as bad as they might first appear. Enforced naivety is often my bosom (excuse the pun) buddy. But today for some reason, I couldn't do this. I found myself for the first time since my diagnosis feeling that powerful yet destructive emotion; Anger.  I felt anger when I sat in the nurse's chair and watched her attach the stoma bag to my open wound, anger when I heard my surgeon's colleague and holiday stand-in talk about 'opening me up' again, anger when I stood at the train station dressed in long jeans to cover my anti-embolism socks and trainers to hide my broken toenails, and watched bright young things float by in flip-flops and summer dresses. I felt anger when I saw couples idly canoodling with each other, anger when I glimpsed mothers happily attending to their children and anger at the realisation that whatever you might be going through at that particular moment in time, however traumatic it might seem, life still goes on. It goes on whether you feel attached to or disconnected from it. The world just doesn't wait for you.

Jeez, that's a whole lot of anger for one person to deal with.

So this is how it feels, I remember thinking to myself, to feel pure envy. Without even knowing their life stories, I realised that I envied those people because they didn't have to think about their bodies. Their bodies were just there, doing what they were told and helping them to enjoy the present moment.
While I considered this, a feeling of sadness overwhelmed me. The feeling got so bad that before I knew it, tears had started to flow down my cheeks. I tried to stop them from falling but it was no good. Thank god for dark shades and thank god for poseurs who wear dark shades inside train stations. No-one batted an eyelid when I put on my sunglasses in the dimly lit interior and pretended to look at the departure boards. I still felt tearful as I boarded the train and when I sat in the carriage and watched people chatter away on their mobiles and immerse themselves in novels, I tried to remind myself of all the great things that I had in my life; my supportive friends; my loyal partner; my devoted family; my inspirational and beautiful son. I thought about the fact that the surgery had been successful. When they scrutinised my half a sternum under a microscope they found dead cancer cells, not the misbehaving live ones that had given me so much grief six months ago. I'd had a complete response to the chemo, the tumours were out of my liver and I am officially classed as 'NED' - no evidence of disease, And I know that this is a great result; the best I could have ever hoped for. But it's hard to quiet the mind sometimes - to ignore the voice that keep asking yes, but what about tomorrow, and the day after and the day after that ? What if ? How do you learn to live again with uncertainty ?

Sometimes as we all know, for the unfortunate few, tomorrow never comes. Now there's a reality that none of us wants to consider. And while I'm certainly not wishing this upon myself or anyone else out there, remembering this reminds me how fruitless it is to worry about what might happen in the future. But just try telling my inquisitive mind that.


  1. Coral, I know we never want people to feel sorry for us, so please know this is coming from love & empathy when I tell you this post made my heart ache for all you are going through. We try to maintain a brave front while the anger, envy and frustration simmer. Thank you for the courage and eloquence to voice the emotions that are all too familiar.
    Love, Laurie

  2. Ahh thanks Laurie,

    I guess I realise that there's no point in blogging about cancer unless you can talk about the bad days as well as the good (and we all know these days exist !). Thanks for your kind words of support. It's great to feel appreciated out there in cyberspace !


  3. Well done - sometimes medics need to be reminded that we ARE human, and have our off-days. A little bit of TLC can be fantastic, but today it doesn't seem to be part of NHS - and definitely not the private sector (they can't cost it out).
    About once a year I have a TANTRUM - in big letters - and surprisingly that makes me feel better, and the medics tip-toe around determined to be nice and not upset me again. Until the next time!

  4. Hi Verite,

    Thanks for your comments - and yes, it's very true what you say about the medics -sometimes they forget that there's more to us than just flesh, blood and all the bits that happen in between ! A yearly tantrum sounds like a fantastic idea although at the moment, it's more like a once a month with me lol ! Thanks for connecting, Cx