When I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer that had returned after 17 years, I found it very helpful reading all the thoughts written down by other people who have experienced this. Many fragments of what people have written have stayed with me and helped me through the treatment.
Here are some of my thoughts of the last six months that I wrote down after finding it very hard to describe my experience when people have asked me about it:
I feel pain; not physical pain any longer, but loss. I’ve lost of my neck. I’ve lost delicate sensations of feeling and I have scars tracking over a private area that was smooth and clean.
I’ve lost the impression that I am healthy or impregnable.
I am set apart – and at the heart of things.
I’ve been violated by a spreading disease whose name I associate with dying – and yet is being effectively treated through modern medicine.
It’s been unimaginably hard, yet impossibly easy.
I am grateful. My doctors have been sensitive and spoken to me as an equal; the ward staff have been gentle and responsive; family, friends and strangers have touched me with their practical support.
I am afraid. This may not be the end.
It’s been easier when I have been able to let go, yet I am fixated on understanding every aspect of my treatment.
I am alone on this journey – and fundamentally joined up to everyone else.
I hate going to the Royal Marsden, full of sick people; yet I find it weirdly comforting at the Royal Marsden, where there are recovering people, like me.