Since starting my journey with lymphoma in 2016 I would say that my emotions have been through something of a roller coaster. Starting with the initial diagnosis which occurred on Sarah’s birthday when denial seemed the best option for dealing with things. Slowly over a period of time I have been forced to come to terms that no amount of denial will make the problem go away. If anything the cascading level of treatment reinforces the need to work out strategies to deal with things.
Cancer presents to some people who know nothing about it as a significant challenge with what to say to you, when engaged in a conversation. The number of times that I have been told how strong I am or how well I look is enough to make my head unable to fit through the front door. This positive reinforcement goes someway towards helping brushing things over. Sadly it also prevents the sufferer from truly engaging with their own issues.
I think we all know the story, you are walking along the footpath minding your own business when a small black dog comes running out of nowhere. It’s not there to attack you it just seems like it’s there to get in the way. You try really hard not to step on top of it, or trip over it. You know the little dog just want’s to play and doesn’t really know any better than to keep on bothering you looking for attention. Often the owner of the dog will come and retrieve it rescuing you from the situation although sometimes that might take longer than you want.
So it is with those little clouds of depression that accompany us to different levels when suffering cancer. My own little black dog has been completely absent from duty for almost the whole of 2020. Sure I had the dark moments I wrote about in my blog about, The long corridor, when I thought my lymphoma had transformed. But by the time I wrote that blog I had adapted to the challenges and moved on. Even going through the stem cell transplant, whilst difficult had light at the end of the tunnel. I knew where I was heading it was just a matter of getting there.
But 2021 has been different, someone has let the little black dog lose and they don’t seem to be doing a very good job of keeping it under control. It’s not that the dog hangs around all the time it just seems to hide behind something popping out unexpectedly. Even while I am sat at the dining room table writing this blog I can feel it breathing on my legs. I have never really had a problem writing, things just seem to flow. But with those soulful eyes looking at you it’s easy to find yourself distracted. Reaching down to pat the dogs head and completely losing your train of thought. Things like getting away in our motorhome become more difficult as we are told to hang around for appointments. So the chance to discharge the batteries lessens increasing the frustration with all that’s going on. Life falls into a limbo status.
I think I realise in myself that as the disease progresses and the potential of a successful outcome shorten. That it’s only natural to experience doubt and fear about what is happening with yourself. What I hate about that is this pervading feeling creeps into other members of the family disturbing the natural balance of things. So with all this in mind I have decided to try and do something to banish the black dog back behind the fence.
There are a number of support groups in New Zealand the most obvious one for some people would be the Cancer Society. There is also a group especially for those like me with a blood cancer, The Leukaemia and Blood Cancer Org. So I made contact with the LBC who offer a number of levels of support including either a one on one with a patient who has been through what you have been going through. Or a group of patients from across the spectrum who meet on a regular basis to offer help and support. The conversation I had with the person in their office was really helpful but the help I really wanted was best secured through the hospital itself and a meeting with one of their psychologists. Who would be best placed to help chase away the small black dog.
An email to my nurse specialist drew a swift response and a self assessment form to be completed. That created a few doubts in my mind because you look at the form and think am I really that bad? Do I really need any help? So I sat on the form for a week before doing anything about it, all the time the little dog was doing a good job chewing my slippers. I think the mere fact that I hadn’t done anything about it despite knowing I should, is symptomatic of how things are with me at the moment.
That’s the first part of the story where it goes from here and if I end up adopting or shoeing away the little black dog will be covered in the next blog.