"Well, life is starting to get back to some sort of normality now. It’s over six months since I finished my radiotherapy and as I sit here thinking back over the last year, I find myself thinking about the new normal.
Before cancer, I was very active. I ran as a hobby and mostly ran marathons. I love that distance. It’s a battle between my body and my mind and my body always wins. At least I think it’s my body! The pain I go through during races is unbelievable at times (mainly my fault; I tend to undertrain!). My legs are screaming out to stop but my mind tells them to carry on. So maybe it’s my mind that wins? Perhaps it’s both working together for the best outcome?
I am now gradually getting my confidence back with my hobby. I barely ran for almost a year; I couldn’t. The symptoms of the cancer made it impossible and I felt so damn rough anyway, and then the radiotherapy took its toll on me; I suffered from nausea most of the time and lived on Imodium. In fact I still carry that around with me all the time, just in case, and I have a ‘Just can’t wait’ card from the Bladder and Bowel Foundation which goes everywhere with me. Thankfully, I have only had to use that once.
My confidence took a knock with work too which surprised the hell out of me. I was off for five and a half months and found it quite hard to settle back in to my role. I think I am just about getting there with that now. I went back to work two weeks after my radiotherapy finished as I was fed up being ill and wanted to be ‘normal’ again.
There’s that word again; normal.
I don’t think life will ever be ‘normal’ again. I have no womb for a start. Not that I miss that; oh no! Not at all! So the constant fear of symptoms is gone to a certain extent. But the cancer may return at some time in the future and bleeding is one of the first signs. So it seems I still have to be ‘womb aware’ even though I don’t have one! I asked my oncologist how I would bleed if I have no womb. His answer was that any new growths could settle at the top of my vagina and bleed down into it. So I still worry a little.
Also, the surgery changed my body. As I have no cervix any more, my vagina is more like a test tube. I find myself wondering if that would make sex any different. I am in a new relationship and am almost afraid to progress to the sexual side of it. That is definitely not ‘normal’ for me! Luckily he is very patient with me. Phew!
I have also piled on two stones in weight which I am finding hard to shift and that worries me too. I think I look fat and would hate anyone else to see me naked! So it appears I have to build my confidence up with regards to my body too eh? My running should help with that. So perhaps in this, my mind and my body will work together here too?
It seems I have learnt a lot from my running. After radiotherapy I was very tired most of the time. But I thought back to when I first started running and how, to go further, I had to push myself a little more each week. The more running you do, the more you can do. I applied this to my everyday life. I started doing more and more and found that I was coping better and better all the time. Of course, my body smacks me in the face from time to time to remind me it’s in charge and I have to have a couple of early nights. But then at my age (53) perhaps that’s sort of ‘normal’ anyway? I don’t know, I’ve never been 53 without having had cancer!
I also find that people tell me how well I am looking. Sometimes I wonder if that’s because they are surprised that I look (and feel) so well after having cancer. Or maybe it’s because I looked rough before my diagnosis. One of my relatives said the other week that I am looking the best she has seen me in years so perhaps I did look ill and just didn’t know it! My symptoms had been present for over a year without me realising that was what they were. So the new normal for me could be someone who looks healthy!
So, has cancer changed my life? On the outside it appears not. I am running, I am working and I have a good social life. When you look deeper though, it has. And that’s quite hard to get to grips with.
But I’m getting there!"