It’s been a week-and-a-half in the Slorance household!
Sick children. Poorly puppy. And mental and physical check ups for yours truly.
And they said that the kids returning to school would make things nice and peaceful…
For me, it’s been another (mini) milestone week, one that’s been both reassuring and challenging, probably in equal measure.
As well as seeing my consultant, I’m also still having regular sessions with a clinical psychologist, given the mental strain of my diagnosis, treatment and recovery process.
As I’ve been on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety tablets for more than five years, being linked up with psychological services through my cancer journey was, in hindsight, a no-brainer and something I’ve found very rewarding (even if drugs like morphine mean I can’t remember much about our Ward-based meetings when I was in for chemo and especially my stem cell transplant).
Post-treatment, I was keen to keep up the sessions to focus on the immediate – how was I coping with the recovery process – and the longer term – how do I live for the moment knowing that the cancer will return at some undefined point in the future.
Thankfully, the potential paranoia relating to the latter hasn’t kicked in, and I’ll do all I can to keep it that way. If I’m always looking over my shoulder I’ll never see what’s right in front of me.
But I am still having big issues in making the most of the present – partly for physical reasons (fatigue, muscle ache etc) and partly mental.
So that’s what we zoned in on this week.
My biggest issue just now could easily be defined as simple laziness. I could quite happily lie in bed all morning, get up and eat crap food, and spend the rest of the day on digital devices dipping in and out of social media. I’d be happy at the time, but would hate myself for wasting the day when it got to bedtime. So I’d resolve not to do it the next day. But then…
I’m not quite into this cycle, thanks mainly to dog walks and school runs, but my routine still lacks focus and I’m still opting for the easy (lazy) option when I can.
Last week I had free tickets to three BBC radio shows at the Edinburgh Festival. Each show started at 10am. And on each of the three days, I managed to manufacture an excuse not to go.
I’ve also allowed dozens of messages to accumulate on email, text, Twitter, Facebook, blog, LinkedIn etc etc that I haven’t got round to answering. Each day I vow to put an hour aside to respond. And each day I manage to get distracted by something else meaning the messages just pile up.
This isn’t really a ‘cancer’ phenomena. My school reports all said “easily distracted”. My career has always been heavily deadline driven. I love creating ‘To Do’ lists but not so great at actually crossing things off.
But there’s no doubt that my concentration levels have been heavily affected by my treatment, and that I’m finding it just too easy to use my ‘situation’ as an excuse for kicking back and doing sweet FA.
So what was the psychologist’s advice?
I admitted that I had dozens of things I’d like or need to do, but the ‘list’ was all in my head. Swimming, back out on the bike, small-scale decorating, cooking, more social interaction, light gardening, more walks with dog/children etc etc.
We agreed that (a) I have to get the list out of my head and onto paper; (b) once that’s done that I actually put plans in place to do the things on the list in a realistic timeframe and; (c) that I try to ensure that as many of the things as possible are in someway ‘meaningful’, and that they offer an intrinsic reward (even if it’s just the promise of a cup of tea and a biscuit when the task’s completed).
An the best way to do that? Make them SMART objectives, something many of you will be more than aware of from your workplace.
So I’m now in the process of drawing up a list of things to do that are:
- Relevant (Meaningful)
I also need to make sure that I avoid ‘boom and bust’ – throwing lots of time and effort at one task and burning myself out for days after. This is what I did by taking the kids to Blackpool for the weekend – the week after (actually, more like a fortnight) was hellish as I paid for my impulsive over-indulgence.
So draw up a list; check against SMART objectives; prepare a schedule; break things into manageable chunks; identify rewards.
Which led us on to STICKER CHARTS! Yup, the best way to help ensure I’m doing this right is to prepare a chart and award myself sticky gold stars every time I do something on my list!! Better get the paper and crayons out…
On the physical side, had my first six week appointment with my consultant yesterday. Six weeks is by a mile the longest I’ve gone without a check up, and after daily then weekly examinations is quite a while to be ‘cut adrift’.
As said in a previous blog, I’ve been experiencing a lot of fatigue over the past month or two, and increasingly achy muscles and joints, especially my calves, hamstrings, upper arms and neck.
The tiredness is just the consequence of the brutal treatment regime, and it’s a case of manage it as best I can – though meaningful activity can help alleviate some of the symptoms.
As for the pain, that’s likely to be a medium-term side-effect from the many steroids I took throughout my chemo and stem cell transplant. The consultant said it can lead to arthritis-like symptoms for weeks/months afterwards but should leave no lasting damage.
Otherwise the physical health is good, with my glands being fine and the Mantle Cell Lymphoma remaining in remission. I’ll get a CT Scan in October and a follow-up colonoscopy in late autumn just to check everything remains all clear.
Just as well, given that we’ve had two children sent home unwell from school this week. Two children with GP and hospital appointments. And a puppy with heat stroke followed by an eye infection.
Still, can’t complain…