Monday

Creating What We Fear

Thalia, the Muse of Comedy
by José Luis Munoz.
The Theory of Absolutely Everything is that we are not only connected to God (whatever our perception of God may be) but we also are God. That's the whole message of mystical Christianity — that Jesus came to show us who we are not who he was, exclusively.

So that makes us creators. And the oft-quoted Law of Attraction tries to make that clear.

But what often isn't clear is how our underlying fears; our inner demons — the ones we chew over or return to repeatedly — are creating too.

And together with that is the conditioning we learnt in childhood of what we deserved and what we didn't and all the pain that we may have held in from those days in either to support our parents or through fear of their reactions. All those are creators too.

I only told my mother a few weeks ago about some bad times I had at school. She had no idea as I'd never told her. I didn't tell because she was unwell and unhappy when I was young and I didn't feel I could burden her. So I took it into me instead. We do that kind of thing … and we get used to doing it so we repeat the pattern.

From the woe and despondency being expressed on my Facebook timeline over the last few days, it appears that's exactly what happened with the UK General Election last week. So many people were afraid that the Conservatives would get into power that that's exactly what occurred.

I can't point the finger; I created my greatest fear: chemotherapy.

Mind you, I did at least realise that and, given that it was the only thing that could save my life at the time, it was something that was fairly easy to come to terms with.

By the way, being of a hopefully spiritual disposition, I did get my fair share of 'dying is healing too' from people who actually thought it was a helpful thing to say. I know that it is ultimately true but it can also be one of those pseudo-spiritual cruelties —incredibly tactless and even disempowering if you're working on trying to live.

It is interesting, though, that if you walk up to your fears, they often dissipate on the way and I'm sure that when it's my time to die, I'll be okay with that. But it isn't. So there.

My making peace with what I'd created didn't mean that when it came to the day of the first treatment it was going to be easy. I was calm and peaceful the night before; calm and peaceful on the morning. But as the actual moment became immanent, I did feel panicky.

You can be as wise and logical as you like but the inner part of you that is still a child will have its say and my inner child's heart broke as she watched Henry die from chemotherapy all those years ago. She was going to need to have to have her hand held big-time particularly because having my hand held wasn't something I experienced much when I was young.

I'd done my groundwork. Firstly I'd made sure that the consultant knew exactly where I was with this and that I might need some extra TLC. This is not to say that anyone else having chemotherapy isn't afraid, by the way — I doubt anyone goes into it without a few qualms. But this was deep stuff for me.

I'd done inner work with my spiritual psychotherapist on healing the wounds and that showed me that my body was okay with what was going to happen and would be able to handle it; I believed that it would have the desired effect and, on the day, I had my dear friend Karen with me to sit with me and help me through it. She was the one to hold the little girl's hand: to be the Mummy that I probably never had and to say, "I know it's horrid but you are such a wonderful girl and I am here. We're in this together." I am perpetually grateful to her for that.

So, of course, the nurses on the day ward were incredibly behind time and, given that Karen had to leave at 2pm to collect her daughter from school, she couldn't stay as long during the actual treatment as we both would have liked. See, my inner demons created that with the subconscious fears so I would end up being alone as has been the pattern of much of my life. Again, I could see that, which was a relief but it didn't make it easy.

If you're now going 'this is just wanky bollox, you're not that powerful' then fair enough. You're creating your life too and it's different from mine. Just cut me the slack of the benefit of the doubt if you would...

I blessed the medicine (loads of different drips and injections) with holy water beforehand … nowadays nurses aren't allowed to make faces or object to anything weird you want to do but they did decide to leave the stuff with me and go away while I did it which was slightly amusing.

Then there's the list of warnings before you start, which are bound to make you feel great (not). I'd had the three-page printed 'side effects' tome before, of course. Isn't it extraordinary that your consultant nowadays prints it off and hands it to you to read later rather than talking it through with you? Mind you, there's not enough time in the day for him/her to go through all of that stuff with you and, in some way I think that's probably good. Maybe you don't need to know it all for fear of anticipating it. But if you do end up reading it at home and it frightens you, that's not going to help either.

Given that it contains details of many different ways the treatment can kill you, maim you and cause further cancers, I am glad I didn't read it until it was all over. I was lucky; I had homeopathy, healing, herbal medicines and acupuncture to help my body cope with it all.

The warnings on the day though are mostly sensible: If you feel this, or that, tell us immediately. Basically, if you feel it and you don't tell them you're screwed … from permanent nerve damage to death. Don't ever forget that chemotherapy is poison; it's only purpose is to poison the cancer before it kills you.

But also on the day came 'don't eat uncooked eggs or cheeses with mould in them.'

This was a month before Christmas when I had promised, promised myself the treat of having some home-made Christmas cake. And what goes into home-made royal icing? Raw white of egg.
So my response to that, I'm afraid, was 'we use our own chickens' eggs and that rule can get stuffed.'

During the first administration of the drugs, the nurse sits with you and asks how you feel physically (but not psychologically) about every minute until they are well under way. I was doing okay on both fronts on the first four. But then Karen had to go.

I told her I'd be fine and I truly believed it. But ten minutes after she left I started to get pains in my sternum.

Now I was pretty sure this wasn't a heart attack but of course I had to report it. And to be honest I was more annoyed than afraid when they went into panic mode — which they had to do — with stopping everything, getting the emergency team, the ECG and a load of other stuff.

I said to my inner demons, 'shut it — this is fake' and I held my little girl's hand and said, 'don't worry; this is all okay; it's just the drugs starting to work.' And I was right.

But after that, apart from blood pressure and temperature checks every hour, no one spoke another word to me. The job had been done and the nurses were doing other things. Fair enough but it was still lonely and I was still slightly afraid.

So, during the long afternoon, while the drugs dripped in, I watched comedy on YouTube. I watched Rhod Gilbert ranting for a couple of hours and then listened to I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again and finished up with some Michael McIntyre. And I began to laugh and laugh. I had to do it quietly because even though you are curtained off and in a separate area from the rest of the patients on your first time in case of problems, it might not have been tactful.

But my inner demons weren't quite done with me yet. At the end of the day, I was the last in the ward and all the nurses were sitting in a far corner, discussing The X Factor. A different nurse from the one who'd administered the drugs took the drip out and said, 'That's it. You can go,' and I was left completely alone to pack up my things, call Lion to fetch me — it would take him a good half hour to get there and I'd had no indication of when I might be finished.

That was a moment of feeling completely abandoned and unloved. I wanted a 'how are you feeling' or a 'well done' or just some acknowledgment of my having been brave or something seemingly daft like that.

But it's not daft. That's exactly what people need; all people who've just been through an initiation like that. All people, not just people who'd had a specific problem, like me.

What was quite clear was that the message had not got through that I might have a psychological problem or that I might not be strong enough with the breathing problems to be able to get from the ward to the car park (I'd had Lion and Karen when I came in). I'd told them myself when I first got there (untrusting - moi?) but either different nurses were on duty or they'd forgotten (now see how powerful my demons were?!)

I walked out of the ward very slowly and carefully completely unacknowledged by that circle of nurses — not even a goodbye —and sat outside in the pathetic fallacy (literary term but so apposite!) of slight drizzle and a chill wind waiting for Lion to come.

Which he did. And enveloped me in his arms and took me home for a long, hot bath, a special supper and a shoulder to cry on.

Still work to do then, sigh. But then the inner work never ends.

1 comment:

Charlie Jordan said...

If only we could rewind time, the nurses would be completely different - compassionate and kind and would even have hugged you & enjoyed talking with you about X Factor/BGT - bet they'd have loved to hear your story...by your writing this, perhaps it will filter through to others in the same v scary first day situation:) Stay well and enjoying the glorious spring days and thanks for sharing all this. x