Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Phoney War

My current chemotherapy cycle has been going very well so far. I had just a week or so of relatively mild side effects. The fluid retention has been a lot better these last few cycles which is a big relief as putting on large amounts of weight in just a few days isn't fun.
Apart from one break of a few months, I've now been on chemotherapy since April 2011. In the absence of any significant symptoms, my experience of my illness is defined by the repeating cycle of three months of treatment followed by a scan. Even with the relatively mild side effects I've been experiencing there is something psychologically difficult knowing that I can only get off this particular treadmill when there aren't any good treatment options left for me. 
It occurred to me that my situation has some parallels to what it may have been like during the 'Phoney War' period that occurred in the months between the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 and their attack on France in May 1940. Britain and France were both at war with Germany but there was very little combat involving these three nations. People knew that the storm was approaching but had no idea when it would arrive. I imagine that some people reacted to the waiting and uncertainty by wishing that the real war would start so they could face whatever fate had in store for them and, hopefully, then get on with their lives.
In the context of my cancer I sometimes experience a strong sense of wanting to ‘get on with it’, that is of wanting to move past the current phase of my illness to face what is coming next. I think that this feeling comes from a wish to get something that is both scary and daunting out of the way as soon as possible. In many situations this kind of emotion would be reasonable but in my situation it really doesn’t make sense. Perhaps my emotional self is still to fully accept the reality of my position. 
For now I feel that the best way to try and deal with these emotions is to avoid looking too far into the future. Thinking about an on-going repetition of chemo punctuated by the anxiety of waiting for scan results or, worse still, coming to the end of my viable treatment options doesn’t do me any good. By focusing only on the short term future I hope to avoid having my enjoyment of today spoilt by the knowledge of what lies ahead.


Here's a photo from Westonbirt Arboretum taken last week, I like the colours in this one:



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