More Lessons I Have Learned
See Part 1: Lessons I Have Learned to read about some more of the takeaways Anita shares from her experiences with bladder cancer.
Comparisons can hurt
There are many things people will say to you when they learn of your bladder cancer, and most are an attempt to make us feel better. Someone will know a friend of a friend's friend who had the same cancer as yours and is doing fine now. These comments are hurtful. I remember saying that I didn't care about so and so; this was about me, and actually, it didn't look like I was going to be ok at all. I think probably the best thing to do is imagine throwing a custard pie in their face and smile sweetly. People try to make others feel better, it's human nature. Unfortunately, it doesn't always help.
Down days are normal
You will get told to "be brave" or "stay positive". This, again, is unhelpful. You are going to do whatever you have to do to get through your treatment. You aren't brave (or maybe you are), you are just living your life while also having cancer treatment. As for 'being positive' - of course, we are going to try to stay positive, but you cannot stay positive ALL the time! Just like people without cancer, you are going to have you down days, the days that suck. The days where all you want to do is cry and worry. THIS IS PERFECTLY NORMAL. So, do it! Scream, cry, shout, eat a whole packet of four chocolate bars - you are allowed.
Be kind to yourself
You are going through a lot. There are going to be times where you are so exhausted you can't carry on as normal... so don't! Take time away from the hospitals, the appointments, everything. Arrange a trip out, even if it is just to a coffee shop for coffee and cake, or take a nice bubble bath and relax. Try and do "normal" things. These little treats really do help when you are having treatment.
Everyone will have an opinion about what they would do in your shoes. Just keep smiling at them and remember the custard pie.
Everything can change in a heartbeat so don't get too hung up on changes in treatments; try and learn to go with the flow. This is harder than you think as we as humans like things to go as planned and get into a bit of a pickle when they don't.
Please don't worry when you get 'good news' but still feel 'flat.' This could be because we are full of anxiety and adrenaline. The adrenaline is there to prepare us for bad news, rushing through our bodies, and when we get good news, it has nowhere to go. That's why you might not feel as overjoyed as you think you should feel. Good news always seems to take a few days to deal with.
I know when I was first diagnosed, I wanted nothing to do with any support clubs, thinking that I could do this journey on my own, and for the most part, I was okay. But, let me tell you about how wonderful having support from people who are going through something similar to you can be. Oh gosh, I experienced this when having my bladder removed.
I felt connected
It was fabulous. I felt connected, there were people who were willing to go through their journey with me, helping me understand what was going to happen afterward, and giving me support on the days directly after my operation. They were telling me to "hang in there" and that it was "early days" and that I might not feel good right away. This helped me so much mentally. Being able to see others without their bladders, living fulfilling lives, some of them even going on adventures in a Tuk-Tuk.
My mantra that helped me through the darkest days
Last but not least, I want to share my favorite saying throughout this journey, and this was said to me by a dear friend, who had gone through breast cancer: "THIS TOO SHALL PASS." During my darkest of days, this helped me so much. It reminded me that I wouldn't feel like I was feeling now forever, and that it would pass and I would feel myself again.