I woke up on January the 1st 2012 and decided this was going to be my year. I thought about the resolutions I had made and was determined, as I am sure everyone is, to keep them. Then, I remembered in my fairly inebriated state the night before I had had a shower and discovered a lump in my right breast. I felt my breast and found the lump was still there and so began a different journey to the one I had envisaged. A very lonely journey and on A lonely Journey e that would leave me exhausted, unwell, and fighting a fight that I had not expected.
As anyone diagnosed with cancer knows, things happen very quickly and the whole process is hard to keep up with and assimilate. Within weeks instead of looking for a new job, which was one of my resolutions, I was saying a tearful goodbye to colleagues. I began to experience loneliness in my last week at work as I would be excused from staff meetings so that I could finish reports that only I could do. Other staff took on my work and I had to take a step back. I joined in the banter but half my mind was elsewhere. A place I couldn’t explain because I didn’t know.
Within twenty-four hours of leaving work I was two miles up the road from the office having my right breast off and within 48 hours, I was home and carrying my drains in a bag like a bag lady. My family were loving, supportive, sympathetic and anxious. I on the other hand was spaced out with no spare energy to be anxious. I was only just beginning to understand the meaning of being on a journey that no one truly understood; least of all me.
Following my mastectomy and prior to starting chemotherapy, I joined a group within Breast Cancer Care. All the people (I say people because men joined as well) were due to start chemotherapy in March, hence we became the ‘Marvelous Marchies’. In the very beginning we introduced ourselves and discussed all our anxieties and fears. A song with a music video was shared on our page called ‘The Wildest Ride On Earth’ about a lady going through her cancer treatment. I remembered feeling empathy for the woman but not truly understanding the loneliness despite the clear depiction. I showed my sister the video the other day and said I may call a blog ‘my lonely journey’. She said “don’t, think about your kids”. I could see her thinking – you weren’t alone, you had a husband, children, a mother, friends, me, how could you be lonely? And yes don’t get me wrong I had support, a lot of support, however, it was to my new virtual friends I shared my fears and anxieties about my family’s anxieties. We laughed about things my family didn’t feel it was appropriate to laugh about. We talked about the possibility of not pulling through and connected at night when our loved ones were asleep and we could not sleep.
Gradually as time went on I begun to understand the loneliness depicted in the video as I was on a journey, on a path, where family and friends could walk alongside me, but not be with the ME inside. The ME taking the drugs I didn’t want to take knowing that in the short term they made me feel more ill then I have ever felt. Understanding after the first dose of chemotherapy what the following weeks would be like. The ME in a fight I didn’t want to be in, a battle I hadn’t chosen and, most importantly, using energy that I had never used before just to stay alive and not give up.
December 2012 I sent a round robin Christmas card describing the highs and lows of that year – “I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all the cards, phone calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages, – they individually and collectively made all the difference to us all but most especially to me as the journey I have been on was a very lonely and egotistical one, I needed all my energy to get through each day and each appointment but to know subconsciously you were all there for me in spirit made the journey so much easier.”
I thought that loneliness would dissipate once my treatment was over but it hasn’t. However, I think I have begun to understand that everyone’s life is unique and at some point everyone will experience that loneliness.
Experiencing loneliness can expose what makes us unique and bring it to the surface. It can help us to discover what makes us happy in times of trial. Most of the time in any case of trial loneliness is inevitable but it is in that loneliness that we discover who we really are and maybe that’s not such a bad thing?