Mental Help Required
Once the cancer was gone, how could I remove it from my mind?
Cancer as Business
The cancer agency is an all encompassing body which decides each step for a patient. There’s usually a flurry of activity and then you wait until there’s a spot for you. Apparently cancer is a huge business. I was informed that the local cancer agency made about $200,000 off my treatment. None of which went into patient well-being that I could see. All services that helped patients deal with the mental onslaught of cancer were provided by volunteers.
And onslaught it is. There were times I felt bullied by the medical staff, made to feel afraid. Afraid of making my own decisions about how may body was going to be treated. Afraid of going against what the doctors recommended. I was made to feel that if I went against the norm, I was doing so at my own peril.
There was painfully little on the treatment lounge bulletin boards that offered patients help with mental health issues around cancer.
I took up the offer for 5 sessions of counselling. It turned out to be someone who was working on a thesis on a particular counselling methodology. She had no experience with cancer patients at all. Her advise was stupid. “Just try to stay positive, don’t worry about the cancer coming back.” I lasted 2 sessions.
Another offer of help was a group of volunteers who provided therapeutic touch sessions to cancer patients. They were 10 minute sessions provided during 2 hours on Tuesdays. The sessions were very popular and I only ever managed to get one session.
So once the operation and the radiation treatments were over, my physical “cure” was complete. As far as the cancer agency was concerned, I was done. The treadmill had stopped and I was told to get off. What was I going to do now?
There was a one day course being offered on how to deal with work and legal issues while going through cancer treatment. One clinical counsellor had seen a need for this information to be presented to patients and so was “allowed” to voluntarily run the seminar.
We were a group of about 12 people in the session. Some were going through treatment yet had no benefits plan or paid leave at work. One young lady was having to still work as a cashier while going through chemotherapy otherwise she wouldn’t have money to pay rent. My heart broke for her.
I was one of the lucky few that had disability insurance and so I was getting a portion of my former wages, it wasn’t much but I could make ends meet.
I received a flyer for an innovative program that helped patients with not only the physical pain of cancer but with the mental healing as well. Unfortunately the program cost $400 to join. It doesn’t sound like much but when your entire income for the month is $800, it’s a lot.
But I was desperate to get treatment for the mental wound that cancer had left.
The program entailed an initial 2 day intensive seminar where every aspect of cancer and treatments were covered. You could then sign up to attend other one hour seminars on various topics. You also had a monthly visit with a doctor to discuss your progress.
True Healing Begins
The 2 day initial seminar was an incredibly in depth look at all aspects of cancer and its treatment. We discussed mental health treatments, physical treatments, traditional and non-traditional. There were sessions on staying physical activity, chemicals in toiletries and how to avoid them. There were cooking presentations and discussions on how to pack as much nutrition into your food as possible to help your body repair itself.
The seminar was packed with people. I was lucky to get into one within a month of paying my money! Only myself and one other woman had finished our treatments and needed help to heal our minds. Everyone else had just been diagnosed or were in treatment. For many, this program was their last chance stop.
Part of the package was monthly visits with a doctor for one full year. I did a lot of crying during my doctor sessions. Dr. G was kind and soft spoken and he gently guided me through my year of recovery. Each session he’d help me discover what would make me heal and feel alive again. I’d leave feeling more positive and full of hope. It didn’t always last but at least I felt it, however fleetingly.
And that was my Big C, take 2. It’s now been 4 years since I had breast cancer.
Cancer is not part of my life anymore. I hate when people call me a “survivor” because I’m not. My life was never in jeopardy and I was always going to heal. But the ordeal certainly has made me tougher and better able to let things go.
I have a mammogram every year and I will admit that the week before and day of the check up I get anxious. The big WHAT IF haunts my thoughts. But every check that comes back clean reminds me to take better care of myself and get on with life.
Here’s my favourite Piet Hein Gruk. Sums up everything nicely: