Mental Health Day

There’s no better way to start the day with some baking! Today I decide to knock up some of Donna Hays’ Blueberry Muffins. I love making them because they’re so easy to prepare, and so delicious to eat, at least that’s what everyone tells me!

The Feeder Programme has a serious technical hitch. Quite simply supply is starting to exceed demand. Now that I’m not going to work and unable to feed my hungry colleagues, David is the sole participant on the feeder programme and there’s only so much cake one man can eat. No matter how good it tastes! So I start to think outside the box. If I can’t feed my workmates and I can’t feed David. I’ll start feeding the doctors. Heaven knows, I see enough of them, often enough!

So, today’s the day  I enrol my GP and her secretary, Brenda on to  the Feeder Programme. Brenda is a treasure who’s always been very kind and helpful and in particular, was solely responsible for ensuring that I got those long awaited biopsy results at the earliest available opportunity. A muffin is the least she deserves. My doctor is a real trooper given that she’s had to tell me I’ve got Cancer. Twice. She is more than well deserving too.

 This is the first time I’ve seen my GP since our fateful phone call, 10 days ago. The reason for my visit is two fold, to get blood tests to check my calcium levels, with a view to decreasing those terrible torpedo tablets, and, to set up a mental health plan with a view to getting some counselling.

To be fair, I think I’m feeling pretty good under the circumstances. I think I reached the peak of anxiety just before the op and just after the pathology results. The best way to describe it, is that my brain is very “busy.” There’s so many thinks I’m thinking and I reckon that it would be good to off load all that brain matter onto some one else. I have a counsellor in mind, actually she’s a psychologist and a red hot one. I saw her  a couple of years back when I had a lot of stuff going down with my dad. I still remember how empowered I felt after my sessions with her and how she helped me find a clearer sense of perspective. This whole Cancer encounter is  another one of those big bumps in the road and to have the same feeling of empowerment and sense of well being would be real welcome right now.

My GP arranges the blood test – that’s the easy bit. She thinks it’s a great idea to go back to my psychologist – she knows her well. As GPs go, I’m very lucky. She’s another excellent doctor to add to my collection. She gives me lots of sympathy and tells me how terrible it must be having no support. Well, here I have to correct her. Admittedly, our family members are a bit thin on the ground down under, (although it’s quality not quantity that counts!) but we’ve got a whole stack of good friends and their support has been steadfast and first rate, to us both. So the support is not the problem.

For me the biggest issue is the lack of control I have…  First and foremost, I can see the pain and suffering this is causing my friends and family – and I can’t do anything about it. G-d forbid, I know how I’d feel if it was one of them, and unfortunately, I’ve been in that situation before. I think being the patient is the easiest part, you can suck it up and get on with business. You just have to do what you’ve got to do. As a loved one, I think the stress and the suffering is so much more intense. For me, knowing that I’m the cause of that pain and suffering, albeit not by choice, but  more importantly, not being able to do anything about it, is pretty soul destroying.

I guess the other part of  not being in control is not knowing or being able to influence the outcome – there are no givens or guarantees when you’re dealt a hand of cards with Cancer. I know life is like that, your life can change in 20 seconds flat , but somehow the uncertainty of living with Cancer, seems to magnify  that fear of the unknown to outsize proportions. And don’t get me started on the “what if…” questions – I could be here all day!

My GP empathises with me  – her sister had her own battle with breast cancer recently so she’s familiar with how I’m feeling. She thinks I have a touch of post traumatic stress following two  out-of-the-blue diagnoses in six months. We talk about the common Cancer cycle of events: 1) Shock – after diagnosis 2) The Star of the Show – You’re the centre of attention: surgery, treatments, a plethora of doctors appointments 3) The comedown/fallout – you’re done with the doctors and not the (medical) centre of attention, you’re  on your own  4) Reflection and empowerment – You come out the other side and can reflect on your experience. You feel empowered by what you have achieved. Life has more meaning. You take nothing for granted. You live for the moment.

The funny thing is my last run in with Cancer was only six months ago. Physically, I was over it way back but emotionally, I was still in the empowerment phase, using the experience as a total life enhancer, loving life, living it large and trying to make everything count. In many ways, that experience had given my life an extra dimension and VAM(Value Added Meaning!)

Maybe because she’s a GP and/or maybe because she’s not emotionally involved with my situation – she knocks together a pretty perceptive “Mental Health Plan.” This is a comprehensive document, that is shared between the GP, the counsellor and the patient, outlining the issues (ie, everyone worrying about me, “shock” from having cancer twice, loss of normal lifestyle and my holiday, and anxiety about the future and complications) the treatment, (counselling) and the goals (live for the moment, prevent ruminations “what ifs,” recover from shock and develop coping strategies.)  She pretty much hits the whole heap of nails on the heads! I feel better already. She even gives me some tips for a website where I can get myself a funky radioactive T-shirt! I go home and make an appointment to see my psychologist on the 28th. Great!

Later that evening, while David’s at football Jane and her partner Shannon, and my friend Eve come over for dinner.  It’s so fun just to hang out, drink wine and it feels so good just to be “normal” enough to cook for friends, Herb and Tomato Fish Bundles, and to find things to talk about other than Cancer!

As we sit down to eat, I check my watch and realise in the UK it’s the time of Mo’s funeral.  I’d already shown that awesome Mongol Rally video to Jane earlier, and even though she’d never met her, she was still pretty awestruck. I guess she’d been Mo-ed. I think that’s the best way to describe the effect Mo had on people. Anyway, before we eat, we raise our glasses to Mo, and I have  a special thought for my friend Heather, who is doing a reading at the funeral. I know it is going to be tough for Hev but I also know she’d do Mo proud and that all Mo’s friends and family will give her an awesome send off.