All over (bar the shouting)

It happened about six months after treatment. My 41st birthday to be precise. After holding it altogether throughout the treatment, stoically and for so long, it all caught up with me. The fact that I’d survived. That I had made it through. And I was a mess. Emotionally that is. For a time.

And I know of others who experience this same post cancer, post treatment collapse. A time and space when we sort of implode, re-evaluating what’s important, our relationships, our work, our life in general. Post chemo, on those days when I felt a bit low, I remember people saying things like ‘but I thought you’d finished treatment’. Quel frustration! So limited in their thinking. Because if you haven’t been through it, you really can’t understand can you. That you may have finished treatment, but the treatment hasn’t finished with you. The emotions continue, don’t they. That post treatment lull, that feeling of  ‘s**t, what just happened?’. And while some people feel angry, or numb, others feel abandoned and rudderless on a sea of disbelief and despair. And the madness of it all can feel a bit like a spinning bottle. One that we hope will eventually come to rest, pointing in a new direction from which we can move forward.

I learned something about that glass bottle the other day. Another aha moment. For when glass is heated to the extreme temperature it requires to shape it, it must be cooled slowly because it will crack under the stress of cooling too quickly. I never realised that glass is actually cooled slowly in ‘cooling ovens’ that reduce their heat over time. Fancy that. A ‘cooling oven’. And I wondered, why should we be any different? After the extreme stress of a cancer diagnosis. The extreme stress of treatment. Both physical and emotional. So many of us crack don’t we. When we’re just expected to suddenly return to ‘normal’ – whatever that is – post treatment. It’s not so different for divers who get the bends when they don’t decompress.

So perhaps we should all have our cooling ovens post cancer. Maybe it’s a blog, maybe it’s a support group, maybe it’s something else entirely. Simply a time and a space to decompress and cool down slowly from that most extreme of stressors that we have just experienced. And it’s important to give ourselves permission to be in them for as long as we need to, isn’t it…

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