The thing called cancer (no.5)

Cancer is definitely a bad thing.

In the case of my mother, we were lucky, because she got better and is now cancer free.

But like everything else in life, you can find a positive side in it.

Yes, there can be a positive side in cancer! At least there was one for me. Or it’s better to put it as: I managed to gather positive things from cancer.

There are many of them actually, and some are still processed by my mind, but there are a few that I live by now….

  • Life is so short, maybe even too short.

Yeah, this is a cliché. But, it’s also one of the biggest truths that someone can come across. We spend our lives worrying for things that aren’t so important after all, we try to keep up with the ton of things that we have to do, we try to live our lives by the rules of society, and….. all these don’t really matter after all, because we don’t have too much time to live and probably we won’t get many seconds chances!

  • We have much more power hidden inside of us, than we think.

Yeah, second cliché, but this is a post about life, and cancer, and the prospect of death, and every conclusion I have reached was reached and expressed by many more people before me; so, clichés were made!

It’s also a great truth that there come times when you need to do certain things and get through rough times, and you just have to do it! And your survival mode is activated and you’re going to get the most of it, if you decide that you’re going-to-fight! There comes the power.

  • Have patience.

If you were asking me, about maybe one and a half or two years ago, if I’m a patient person, I would laugh. And a part of me still does. I like getting things done, I have some control issues (knock, knock, it’s OCD), but having to deal with a disease like cancer (plus my mental health and my father’s health issues), I was kind of forced to work on my patience.

Let me put it this way: you’re on a cliff (sea in front of it) and someone suddenly pushes you into the deep water. You can either freak out and try to find your way back on the cliff and do many unnecessary moves that will eventually…probably… going to lead you to your death. BUT, you can try to stay relaxed (as much as you can inside a difficult situation), swim to stay on the surface and think what you have to do for this situation to end, and because some things are not in your power to control, have patience to wait for…life to happen!

Because, this is all about life happening!

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The thing called cancer (no. 4)

This one is about the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis /treatment /survival. And from the point of view of the caretaker of the patient.

So, about one and a half years ago my mama was diagnosed with esophagus cancer. I still remember the moment I learned about it. And I still remember almost every moment after that, for the next months.

I was her main caretaker (brother and father were helping, but I did the hard stuff, the chemos, and the surgery and the recovery – and oh boy, the recovery was the hardest!). And there were friends who helped as well and I’m extremely grateful to them, forever.

And now, I think it’s finally time to talk a bit about what being the caretaker of a cancer patient is all about and how is the aftermath of the whole experience. It takes time to be ready for it.

First of all, it’s fucking hard. I was in survival mode, therw were things to be done and I had to do them. So I did, even if sometimes they were coming on the way of my OCD (yes, I was dealing with anxiety even before the diagnosis, all the cancer thing, of course, it wasn’t the most helpful, but I managed to make things happen).

Losing my mama used to be my worst fear. A fear that was sitting right next to me for months and months….

Taking care of my mama totally turned the tables and the balance in our relationship. I stopped being the kid and I became some kind of mother to her.

All the hospital visits, the treatments, everything during this period of time, can’t do much food to anyone. There are scars created.

High anxiety levels, lack of good sleep, a lot of pressure, a lot of work to be done, while in the meantime you try to face and deal with so many things, fears, thoughts, feelings.

The less people that are involved in the caretaking of a patient, the worst thins are for the caretaker(s). Much more things to be done, much more responsibility to be taken.

There are many mental states that a cancer patient goes through, and I’m not the right person to talk about it, I haven’t been through them after all. But I can talk about the mental states that a caretaker goes through. I did and I suppose some people will identify with them. It’s a one-way, constant survival mode. You have a never ending to do list. I remember having just some glimpses of my body and mind breaking down, but I couldn’t afford to give those glimpses too much space. Life was going on! And all those other times that I was planning a break for myself, my mind couldn’t practically go into any other calming mode.

Usually, being the caretaker means putting yourself second. Because you need to, and because your body and mind don’t really have enough stamina to care for a heavily ill person and pay the same attention to a second person. (Occasional help from other helps a lot in these situations).

Being the caretaker, also means being some kind of therapist/ life coach. Dealing with an illness like cancer is an emotional roller-coaster for the patient, and you have to be there for emotional support and inspiration as well! Personally, I had to support psychologically my mother, myself and a few people around (well, now that I’m writing about it I don’t know how myself and my mental health survived that…).

And there are a lot of “no’s”, and rejections, and denial coming from the patient. You have to deal with all of them, and cut them some slack (or a lot of it) because they’re going through some kind of hell.

And you have to be positive, for the patient, for yourself, for everything and everyone.

Fourteen hours of surgery and two weeks in the hospital, and two to three months at home after that. And a couple of months with monthly chemo before that, and many more.

The best picture you can take is this one:

And time passes.

And mama won.

And the big truth that takes quite some time to digest. Apart from all the emotions and thoughts that the patient goes through after the storm, there’s a great deal of aftermath for the caretaker as well.

It takes months to figure things out, to get rid of the pressure, to calm down. I don’t think you can be the person you used to be. It’s a life-changing experience. With a huge amount of aftermath to deal with.

I’ ve been in treatment (meds and therapy) before all the cancer thing, for my OCD and anxiety (and some suicidal thoughts too), and I still am. I take the best care I could ever take of myself. But there is still a part of me that deals with the great care I took of my mama.

And here’s a holiday photo of her back to work and me visiting:

The thing called cancer (no. 3)

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It’s been quite some time. About nine months to be more exact. 

When I learned about my mom’s cancer diagnosis, I was standing in front of the kitchen counter at her house, eating some candy. 

Since then, we’ve been through a lot together (always with the help of friends and family, but as the first born of the family I was her main helper/nurse/positive energy coach/cook/everything else needed), therapy, a 14 hour surgery, the healing from that surgery, all until we learned that now she’s cancer free. Well, not fully recovered yet from the surgery, and in a program of frequent checks for a year, but I think that this is the end of an era, a milestone of victory!

To better things to come! 

Life as it is

Yeah, life isn’t always easy, and sometimes bad things come in groups. In the past year, since last May to be exact, many things have happened. 
I was diagnosed with O.C.D., after almost ten years from the first signs of it. This O.C.D. brought me to a breaking point and caused me depression and suicidal thoughts. I started therapy and taking meds. After a couple of months, a big part of the factory where my mom amd brother were working was burnt. My brother who was working in production stopped working, but my mom continued working in the offices of the factory. But, since I don’t have a day job, I had to go back to my parent’s house for some months. A couple of weeks after the fire, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She did chemo and these days she’s going into surgery. Thankfully her cancer is treatable. And, last weekend my father almost died from kidney failure. He survived and is going on dialysis, probably for the rest of his life. 

It’s so funny, that as I’m writing and reading the last lines all these seem so surreal! Yes, bad things happen all together sometimes, this is a fact. But, the difference is made from the way each person decides to react and act to things. 

Personally, I prefer fighting. I say that “when life gives you the middle finger, you give her the middle finger back”. I’m a fighter, and I try to make even the worst things work in the best way possible (a kind of positive thinking, but more of a way of working with things, so I can get something positive out of them). 

In the last year of my life, many things (some of them really bad) have happened. BUT,… my mom’s cancer is treatable, my O.C.D. is going well, I’m doing great with psychotherapy, and most importantly I can now say that I’m learning to live. 

Really live, not just going through every day. But, becoming a better and stronger human, becoming better friends with myself, taking control of my life and learning what really matters in life. 

Even in the worst situations, there’s always something good you can dig up! 

Just life 

Lately, I think a lot about the “microcosm”. How it has changed over the years and especially how it has changed over the last months. 
Yeah, since it’s basically a personal blog, it makes total sense to change with time, exactly like life does! But, sometimes, I’m thinking if someone takes a look at the posts… is he/she going to understand what the blog is about?! 

So, I thought of writing a few words about… life right now. 

I’m a 28 year old artist, living in a colorful house (it’s an apartment, but I like the word “home”), in Athens (Greece). 

I’m practicing many forms of art (trying to make a career out of them and looking for a day job in the same time). I have three brands (one with colorful/ bohemian handmade jewelry, one with psychobilly/ macabre inspired handmade jewelry and one with my original artwork). I’m a photographer, and a crafter. I’m practicing, so I can do performance art someday.

I have ocd (I’m doing really well lately). And my mother has cancer (she’s doing well and she’s going to do even better).

So, the “microcosm” has every aspect of my life in its posts. 

I hope you like the variety! 

People are complicated and life is too!