Recovery is an odd business.  I am basically well.  Very well.  Gloriously, deliciously, delightfully well.  And I am revelling in that.  Ask me how I am and chances are I will reply with great enthusiasm that I.  Am.  Well.  Because I am.  Really.


You just knew that was coming, didn’t you?  As time marches on I find more things that are not quite as they were.  Bits of me where chemo has left its mark.

I seem to have been left with permanent tinnitus.  I sleep now (when I sleep) with an audiobook playing to drown out the incessant noise I hear otherwise.  It is not all bad.  I am working my way through some fabulous tales and having a bedtime story told to me as I drop off is really rather pleasant.

I get very very tired.  I believe this may go on for some time.  I am fine, fine, fine.  And then I am so not.  My body seems to revolt with tiredness.  I not only stop sleeping, I become far too intimate with the toilet.  Not something that happened before.

My skin is very friable.  It tears easily.  It dries out more readily.  It becomes sore at the drop of a hat.

My internal thermostat is on the blink.  This may be down to my hormonal treatment, my exemestane, but it is not just hot flushes.  Which, frankly, are not that bad.  I become cold very quickly.  In temperatures that would not normally cause me to feel cold.  It is a little bit like permanently having the erratic thermostat associated with a viral infection with none of the poorliness.

I have muscle pain/weakness in my left shoulder & back where my mastectomy and reconstruction surgery took place.

On top of this, there are the muscle cramps and joint aches from the exemestane.  I have another four and half years of it so there is little to do but put up with these but they are not much fun.

So there you have the physical stuff.  But I think the worst moments are when the ol’ cancer demons come to call.  Whether it is the whispering voices that say it is returning; the flash backs to the grimmer parts of last year or unexpected glimpses of a different shape as I pass a mirror or see a reflection; all serve to remind me of what has been, what has changed and what could have happened.  It leads to a lot of mixed emotions that can be overwhelming.

Spending time away on our boat has been amazing therapy.  It has provided me with the opportunity to reflect, the time to grieve, the time to heal and the time to recuperate.  But I miss the talking one does when one is surrounded by people, by community, by family.  So I am hugely grateful that one of my best friends is coming to stay next week.  We have much to celebrate as she has just reached her five years post successful treatment for Non Hodgkins Lymphoma.

In the meantime, this poem has given me much solace.  It reminds me very much of my belovéd Psalms, in particular 23

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry


8 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. Every sympathy for you, dear Helen. Glad you are well, but understanding the other bits too. Sue has been on a similar journey, as you know. Cancer free, but never forgetting. What a terrible affliction it is, when it torments you even when it’s not there. Wishing you the very best of health and happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Together my beautiful friend we will chase the demons away with plenty of love, laughter and Gin so they don’t dare even try to rain on our parade xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a perfect poem. not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. …. Matthew 6/34.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this post Helen, I’ve found it really reassuring. I’m also finding ‘oddities’ of recovery rather frustrating. I’m with you all the way on the tiredness – though I guess we both have to keep in mind that we’re not 12 months post-chemo yet.

    I am picking up every single bug my toddler brings home from nursery and for some reason I’m lost my voice twice this year due to colds, having never done so before (my husband is slightly more enthused about this side effect!).

    I also wish I knew which ailments are due to chemo (and therefore should resolve themselves over the coming months), which are due to tamoxifen (so I know I have to learn to deal with them for the next 10 years) and which are just the result of being a first time Mum (in which case I have at least 18 years before those symptoms ease off!!!).

    I have to admit that I do notice a bit of an improvement when I make a point of being good on the nutrition and exercise front…but that’s just sooooo boooorrrriiinngg!

    Anyway, thank you as ever for sharing.

    Sam x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So lovely to hear from you Sam! It’s a weird old business, isn’t it? Are you part of the Younger Breast Cancer Network? I’m sure they’d be brilliant on tamoxifen & toddlers – oo! Now that sounds like a snappy title!! I picked up loads of infections to start with but have been ok recently but when my two were little they were very generous with their germs so I’m sure you’ll be getting a double whammy there! Much love to you x


  5. Hi Helen,

    The poem is great and fits nicely with your post. I’m sorry to hear of all of the medical crap caused by cancer treatments. I am very fatigued, years post-treatment. I feel like I’m 15 years older than I really am. I’m hoping you do well and have a great visit with your friend!


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