December 29, 2014

“Your worst enemy cannot hurt you as much as your own unguided thoughts.” Buddha

Margot dons the nurse's protective chemo mask

Margot dons the nurse’s protective chemo mask

Given all the personal and family disruption and trauma that occurs when a loved one is battling cancer, people regularly & often ask: “how are you coping ?”

Of course, we are all different and what helps & comforts me may not be of any help or comfort to others, but I rediscovered this quote by Buddha which went with a blog entry from this time last year which gives some insight into what was going through my mind at the time.

Post Christmas last year, Margot needed to go back into Great Ormond Street Hospital for a few days of chemotherapy treatment, before returning home again for a short while, prior to a much longer hospital stay.

We were all busy with Margot’s donor appeal and yet at the same time, Margot was suffering awful side effects from the chemotherapy treatment – the levels of toxicity really are unacceptable; we simply wouldn’t do it, were it not for the alternative – and the family was being forced apart again. My emotions were all over the place.

Rash ! One of the nasty side effects of chemotherapy

Rash ! One of the nasty side effects of chemotherapy

This is what I wrote at the time:

It seems that there are a number of counter-intuitive behaviours that are best adopted along this journey. There’s nothing particularly earth shattering here, but I find that writing these things down helps me to recognise what’s going on and improve my own awareness and understanding.

I now realise that I would do well to try and de-sensitise in some way, otherwise it all gets too painful. Drs and nurses must do this every day at work, to a greater or lesser degree, or they’d leave heartbroken at the end of every shift. In that sense, there’s a need for me to better compartmentalise and order some of my thoughts and feelings.

Elsewhere, there’s the need to hold together other facets of family life; more than ever before it’s increasingly important that we all continue to think and behave like a connected family unit, in spite of us being physically forced apart.

My instinctive response to our recent life changes has been kind of binary, shaped by a heightened and distorted sense of ’normal’. These days, I find that there are certain things worth sacrificing my life for, and many more things which I really couldn’t give a stuff about (whereas previously I might have done). Familiar, yet unnaturally extreme feelings & behavioural characteristics.

Of course, such extremes are no good – so there is a need for more conscious thought and a heightened self awareness in order to retain rational behaviour.

Whilst similar, everything is different now. And I suspect one of the most important things is for me is to recognise and accept that life has changed irretrievably. Actually, I’m not convinced that I have totally accepted this situation yet. Is it possible that I’m still in a state of shock ?

On that point, we’re all feeling the after-shocks tonight (and in harmony with something Vicki expressed earlier): the contrast between us all having been at home for a few days, and the family being physically torn apart again today. I refused to allow myself to think about it over Christmas, although I knew all too well today was coming. Not a medical condition, but a very real family symptom as a result of one.

Such are the challenges… and so to work !


Husband to Vicki and father to Oscar (2007), Rufus (2008), Digby (2015), Humphrey (2017) & Margot (2012-2014)

Posted in: Journal