I wake up with a start. I’m here again. My old friend insomnia has returned. The time on my digital bedside clock swims into view, it’s 3:01am. There is no friendly glow from the lamp, just darkness and my racing brain for company.
Sleeping In The Shadows
When we lived in the centre of town I would often be woken up in the early hours of the morning. Kicking out time from the pubs and clubs, the overspill of merriment and arguments exploding onto the pavements outside. I was a very light sleeper and once I was awake I would struggle to fall back to sleep again. The light from the street lamps outside would cast dancing shadows across our room. Now we live in the countryside and there is no sound and no frolicking lights. I love where we live but now my eyes frantically scroll the room scanning for a chink of light, nothing – it’s just suffocating darkness.
I realise the reason for my insomnia is that I am getting anxious about my scans. I’ve always been a slightly anxious person, as I suspect a lot of us are. That’s the way of the modern age; we live in a society that doesn’t switch off. We are in a constant state of high alert. I’ve always used exercise to help keep the anxiety at bay but now even exercise is no longer a given. I have to ask myself if it’s sensible, do I need to be careful not to push myself too hard? I can’t just go to a gym like I used to, sign up for a class, or pound the streets, it all requires careful calculation – is this a sensible thing to do?
Trying To Keep The Panic At Bay
Now, I would love nothing more than to put those trainers on and hit the country lanes, watching the sun come up before returning back home. But I know that this would not be a good idea. I had been for a slow plod the previous day and I know that my body needs to rest. Yet, my brain hasn’t received that memo and it’s keeping me awake with its dark thoughts –
What if the scans show the cancer has spread?
What if the scans show that you will need radiotherapy?
What will be the next steps?
What if you feel really sick after the scans again?
I’ve never really suffered “proper” panic attacks until fairly recently. I’ve sometimes felt the simmering of panic bubbling away under the surface, but keeping busy and active has always kept it under control – mostly. December was the first time I would say that I had a panic attack. I woke up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t get my breath, my heart was racing and I was frantically grappling for air. I’m not sure what prompted it. That attack seemingly came out of nowhere. I had been getting a little stressed about Christmas but it wouldn’t normally provoke that sort of behaviour. I was also worrying about my health. However, even then I would veer from something is not right, to you are being paranoid. I had decided to go to the doctors once Christmas was out of the way, just to reassure myself. Now I look back and I wonder If I already knew deep down that something more sinister was going on?
Living In Fear
After my scans (we knew it was cancer but it hadn’t been officially been diagnosed), I felt like I was living in a constant panic attack. I couldn’t sleep with the light off, I would wake up convinced that I was dying, my heart jumping in my throat. We had a week of waiting for the official confirmation and during that week I struggled to eat and drink. My body went in to shut down. I was telling everyone that I was fine but my body was revealing the lie. I found I couldn’t swallow because there was a constant lump in my throat. I struggled to even sip on water. Mr C was so concerned that he took to buying me Mini Milk ice lollies and Complan milkshakes. My tongue turned white because I wasn’t getting enough nutrition and Mr C threatened to take me to hospital because he was worried I would end up collapsing. I was a mess. I know that I can’t let myself get like that again.
4am rolls around and I can hear the cockerel crowing. To be honest he has been crowing since I’ve been awake. Perhaps he woke me up. The sound of drunks has now been replaced with a cockerel that seems to be in a perpetual state of jet lag. Next to me Mr C stirs, and I lower my phone so as not to disturb him.
I find myself praying: please let these scans be okay. I channel positive thoughts and tell myself it’s going to be okay, but still my mind keeps reeling back to what Monday and Tuesday will bring, and my meeting on Friday with the oncologist. It’s going to be a long week and I know that emotions will run high. But it is, what it is. That’s what I keep telling myself. That’s what other people keep telling me.
“There is no point worrying about them, they are out of your control”
I appreciate what they are saying but I find myself wanting to shake them by the shoulders. Do you not realise that my/our whole future hangs on those scans, on those machines and what they find? I’m scared. I’m scared that I’m not going to get the news we all so desperately need. I realise they are just trying to comfort me and I have to be strong for those who are supporting me. I know they are scared too: this isn’t easy for any of us.
I tell myself that I need to keep it together for them. I can’t let myself get into that state of panic. I have to do this. I can do this.
I look at the clock. it’s now just 5am. I peek through the curtains and I can see that dawn has broken. It looks like a very grey day, but I don’t care because it’s my day to seize. I carefully pad into the bathroom but I have forgotten to put my thick socks on and as my feet hit the cold bathroom tiles pins and needles shoot up my legs. I mutter curse words under my breath. I’m now fully awake, there is no point going back to bed. I find my socks, put on a cardigan and gently creep downstairs.
It’s okay, I’ve made it through the night. I feel positive again, this is my day for the taking.
It feels like I have the most important week of my life ahead of me. Who knows what Friday will bring. The culmination of this week will see me plodding the Cancer Research UK Race for Life on Sunday. I remind myself of this positive action I am taking; how I’ve managed to raise money and awareness during this difficult time. That’s something to feel really proud of.
Yes, I remind myself, I can do this.
If you would like to sponsor me you can do so here. So far we have raised £2,940. That’s an incredible amount of money and I would love to break the £3,000 barrier. Can you help me? A massive and huge thank you to everyone who has already donated. I really appreciate it. We can do this.