After Words

I was astonished by the level of interest and response to my “thanks, but no thanks” rant last week.  I was in part reassured to know that I am not alone in the physical and emotional space and that these “afters” and “sides” of cancer and its treatment are very real and encroaching.  However, at the same time I was saddened and frustrated that so many of us are struggling.  Often silently, because we do not want to appear ungrateful or to upset family, friends and those around us.

From the outset in this cancer experience I have always reminded myself that there are many things which are not in my control, but many which are.  And how I live the cancer deal is one of those in my control.  I would rather be flippant and feisty, and poke fun at cancer than dwell in the doldrums and feel unhappy with my lot.  It just is what it is and I get on with it.  Mostly.

What came across clearly in the comments and conversations prompted by the rant, was the fact that amidst this weariness, we feel compelled to maintain a positive outlook and we feel guilty when we sometimes want to scream and stamp our feet.  Well perhaps not stamp the feet as they hurt too much!  There was a widely shared sense that we do not allow ourselves to have off days, and times of frustration or anguish.

I have been adjusting to these side effects of these meds for some time, and last week reached the point where I lifted my head out of the sand and realised that the pain and discomfort are such that there are many things which physically I can no longer do.  I have had to acknowledge with some resistance, that the break I have booked for next month will be far more physically challenging than I have prepared myself for and that is beyond frustrating.  This is not about inconvenience, this is about debilitating physical effects which are stopping me doing what I have long taken for granted.   For example, one of the favourite parts of my work, visits to our project sites are increasingly difficult – I used to hop on and off of boats, sit on the floor in villages and walk for days in the Himalayas.  Much of that is now too painful, unsafe or, sadly, beyond my capacity now.

That is when I reached that tipping point and this rant took shape.  I feel better for venting, but nothing of course changes the physical deal, the side effects are still there, and I still have difficulty walking. But it is what it is.  I deal with it. I get on with it and adjust as far as possible.  Mostly with a smile, but sometimes, it just gets too much and I weep.  Not often, but sometimes.

These past weeks have been tough ones, and the prospect of more of the same in terms of side effects feels heavy.  But I do work hard to balance this and make the most of what I DO have, and carpe that diem.

Most days I am incredulous that I have been able to realise my dream and ambition to live and work overseas, in such extraordinary places.  I have now been in Asia for 13 years, and am humbled and moved by the incredible experiences I have been through and the wealth of inspiring and amazing people I have known.  I love my life, and I have no significant regrets.  There are of course a heap of things I still would love to do, sitting in my wish bucket.  But, I have so much to be thankful for and if someone called “time” tomorrow, I would not plead for the chance to do that something I have not managed to get round to.

Even as I sit here, looking out onto the lush garden, the wind whispering in the mango tree, frogs croaking as more rains approach, I still have that sense of naïve wonder and fresh enthusiasm at being in such a place.

However, some days it just takes that extra energy and determination to get on with the day to day, and I find that the reserves have run low and it is just out of reach.

It is what it is.

Sometimes even geckoes have to rant.


20 thoughts on “After Words

  1. Without doubt ranting is necessary. Okay, not every moment, but getting angry can be just as important as finding peace. Sometimes it needs to come out, and I think many of us all understand that from experience. I’m so sorry for all the pain. I’m just sorry you need to cope with any of it. But I’m also grateful for the beautiful stories you have shared with us, and am in awe of the adventures you are collecting. Enjoy the garden. Carpe that diem, and I’ll try to do the same too! ~Catherine

    • Thanks so much for your validation and understanding, and I think you highlight the critical thing. That a rant is something which needs to come out at some points, but it is not a way of life or healthy approach if that is our only tactic. I am dusting myself down and looking forward to my next adventure, a short break in a hideaway in the Malaysian jungle – I can’t wait. I just want to feel well for it, but hey, if I don’t I know it will be healing :). Hugs to you xox

  2. And rant we must when the need arises. I ranted right along with you. There are so many things I used to be able to do with relish, but now, alas, they are mere memories, thanks to cancer. I’m glad to know your wish bucket is still there, as is mine. It represents an extra helping of hope. I’ve even slacked off on writing because typing hurts my fingertips. It’s so sad, but it’s one of the “sides” that cancer bestows. Now whenever a menu mentions how many “sides” I can choose with my meal, I’ll just say pass. The word will never be the same. Thanks, Philippa, for your beautiful voice. xo

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, J – I especially appreciate it given the pain and discomfort for you when writing and typing. Cancer is such a thief – I am so sorry it has stolen your words from us, I love your writing.

      I used a voice recognition software (dragon) when Twang Arm stopped me from typing and it was pretty good. In fact it was hilarious sometimes as it completely misunderstood my accent sometimes!

      Take care, and thanks so much for your kind words xox

  3. dear phillipa,

    there’s a reason for the oft used adjective of “delicious” when describing a rant, especially if it is shared with people who have had to swallow much of the same awful side effects at the cancer café – then, as with many of us, feel obliged to “stuff” the resulting pain and emotions of anger, sadness, and the heavy burden of ugly physical realities. writing a good rant is sometimes like a purge, and reading a good rant enables us to feel we aren’t sitting at that one lonely table in the corner, alone and hungry for something, anything to relieve the dreadful isolation and misery of feeling rocks in the pit of our stomach. your rant was, indeed, delicious! you issued a longed-for invitation for some table mates – and they came, they said, “me,too “, “me, too” – and together ordered up a lovely meal of thanks giving for your honesty – NOT FOR CANCER – IT WAS NOT INVITED, thank you very much. it made us feel like we just had to finish off with heaping plates of cake and ice cream! that’s what rants can do. if not on plates, it was more than enough for our hearts, minds and souls to feel and savor the “deliciousness”.

    much love to you phillipa, XOXO


    • Oh Karen I LOVE this – a delicious rant, YUM!!! So much more descriptive and satisfying than the good old scratch which was in my mind as a comparison! I love your image of a thanks giving meal and also have a naughty image of a kind of “Ranting Dinner”. I can just visualise some great ranty antics (would they be rantics ?;) ) like food fights and plate juggling 🙂 An open invitation, but no seat for cancer at the table! Truly delicious and satisfying, but not for every day 🙂

      Thank you so much, and love and hugs to you too xoxox

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  5. One of the things I’ve found/still find difficult is other people’s expectations of me. People who haven’t been through this experience have some concept of surgery and some fear of chemo but once its done they seem to assume all returns to normal. All is far from normal! When I explain I cannot walk as far or as fast as I used to, that I find stairs incredibly painful and I need half an hour each morning to get my finger joints working they look at me with a puzzled expression and then ask if I’m getting arthritis. Then I explain its all side effects from treatment and they say “ah it’s only temporary, your hair is coming back so these side effects will go soon”… and I’d like to believe that but I know it isn’t true. You’re right, cancer is a thief of the worst kind.

    • I am so sorry that you too are facing this. You articulate what I am also finding, and that impossibility of conveying just how rough this is. At least we are not alone, sending you warm and gentle hugs xxx

  6. I’m finding I am adjusting to many things too now. My stamina and strength are not what they used to be, (to name just a couple of things). I am so weary of hearing that much of this is due to normal aging. I beg to differ. And life is always a balancing act, but post-cancer dx, I think it’s a whole lot harder to find that equilibrium. Thanks for another terrific post.

    • Thank you so much, Nancy. Sigh, that is what also frustrates me – the fact that this is not part of the aging process but heavy, insidious effects. Holding on to you as we try and balance our way through this together, big hugs xxx

  7. When I was in treatment, a friend sent me this quote, which I think says it all: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
    ― Mary Anne Radmacher

    Best wishes for your continued fight.

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