This post is well over due and difficult to write but important to me to get these thoughts down.
So the last 14th months have been like nothing I have ever experienced. At the beginning of 2020 my wife Amanda was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Terminal? That was the shocking part, instantly painting a picture of certain death. After the initial shock of hearing those words the first question we felt the need to ask was how long? Will she see her next birthday or Christmas? The answer was confusing and took ages to process, The answer was we cannot guarantee that. Firstly we instantly took that as a no! This probably wasn’t the best thought process and was extremely hard hitting and made the rest of the conversation a bit of a blur. We discussed options on treatment, side effects and all that goes along with Cancer. The family where informed and obviously everyone wanted to come and see Amanda. Lots of tears, upset but they all rallied around to support.
Fast forward to March and the Covid situation ramped up a few gears and lockdown added a new dimension to an already dark situation. Now we are dealing with Cancer and not being able to see loved ones! Family is everything to Mandy so this wasn’t the one. Luckily I had a new job role that enabled me to work from home full time and meant I could be in the same house as Mandy 24/7 even if I was working all day, Just to be there seemed a massive thing.
Treatments started and although the chemo was hard she coped with it really well not experiencing many of the side effects we had been warned about. One of the biggest hurdles was having to give her injections on the second week of each chemo cycle. I have a fear of needles and on first attempt Mandy really couldn’t do it herself so I had no choice but to step up. Lots of tears on that first go but I concurred my fear and it got easier each time. I am now comfortable with doing it. Amazing what we can do when we have too. We started eating more healthy and trying to go for walks when not shielding. It was taking its toll by now and she was becoming very weak. Covid kept throwing curveballs with lockdown, shielding effecting us not being able to go put and even having to take long breaks from the treatment of sometimes 5 months. After a few sessions Mandy lost her hair and started to look really sick, weak and not herself at all. That was a killer and looking back the real start of my own internal struggles. Work was getting crazy, we couldn’t see anyone, my wife was dying….. I even stopped listening to music for a while.
DRINK, As many people do when in these situations I started drinking, one glass of wine became 2 or 3 while doing my radio show, then was all weekend, then every day. Gifts would arrive in hampers and often bottles of fizz and nice spiced rum, I could get through these at an alarming rate. A bottle of rum would often last less than a week. I started putting on weight and found I was battling in my own mind daily, Its OK im not an alcoholic I will stop when lockdown is over etc. My skin became bad, my weight was up which caused back issues and I was generally slumping into a dark place. Im sure Mandy wasn’t and maybe still isn’t aware how much I was slumping into depression and how much I was actually drinking. We still have not spoke about this so I will ask her to read this once finished. I also dot think any of my friends and family are aware just how bad it had got and how much of a dark place I was in. Boy this feels good to write! Note: Andy Ward you said I should do this many times, I have now it feels good even if it has taken me a year.
This behaviour continued for some time. Mandy got “better” in the chemo breaks, her hair grew back and I loved it when it was short, we often joked about how I fancied her with short hair but then another session would make it fall out again and the cycle of hurt and pain continued as did my drinking and battling with myself. September 2020 Mandy’s birthday we made it this far dare we plan for Christmas? We had regular scans and the chemo was having a good effect shrinking the tumour by a considerable amount. We had actually booked a big house isolated in the country months ago before Covid but lockdown brought all sorts of doubts on if we should be getting together, it was breaking all sorts of rules but after many a discussion we decided due to being on borrowed time we would all get tested, isolate for weeks before and just go for it. We had so much anxiety in the days leading up to it I felt pushed into a dark place once again. We did go and looking back I am so glad we did, It was the most amazing Christmas and the first time all of us had spent it together ever. No regrets and most importantly we all remained safe.
After Christmas chemo continued as did my drinking, Social media seemed really toxic as almost everyone was dealing with the struggles of Covid family deaths and more. A light bulb moment, We are not the only ones going through something!! There was a shift in my thinking, Mandy was still here well after the exaction was set so to speak. I started seeing positive posts on social media, people seemed to be reaching out to help each other. Maybe this was happening all along? Maybe I was juts struggling to see it through the hurt and pain? There are a few key people that have helped pull me out of this slump and although I have a long way to go I am walking most mornings, eating better and drinking far less although thats very much an ongoing process.
All through this I have said on my radio shows the importance of reaching out to people, it makes so much of a difference, one phone call can change a persons day, week, month or even life. I have started surround myself with positive thinkers and reading some good motivational books. This in itself has helped shift my mind set in a huge way. For anyone struggling with anything in their life at the moment I seriously urge you to take a look at the following links below. It will make a difference. The above may shock some people but it needed to be put down and is all part of the process of moving into a more positive mindset, I know I will have many more battles to fight but for now at least feel I am on track. Thank you for reading and my hope is just one person takes something from this and it helps them.
Inspire and be inspired – Andy Ward great interviews with people that have first hand experience in many subjects
Mark Wilkinson who book life remixed really touched and inspired me
Love life again – Lucy Cole Grief Coaching
Faith & the Fearstone – one for those with children to help with mental health