I have been feeling a bit sad today, just one of those low days really. I’ve been feeling a little more like that more often recently, while finding it difficult to explain. One explanation went something like:
“I was just looking at my drain sites and remembering that I used to have drains in, and it made me sad.”
I mean, doesn’t that sound a bit silly? I am sad because I am remembering something. I am sad for no reason other than I am thinking about something that happened in the past, and that isn’t happening anymore. I think it felt silly to me because it seems pointless to go over things in my head for no reason, and because in the context of what has happened, some of the things that have happened seem trivial. I suppose it is the idea that now that cancer is gone I should be happy. But of course I know it doesn’t work like that. I know that.
I had to have a friend remind me today that it’s actually okay to be sad. And I realised that what is probably going on is grief. Just because something isn’t happening right now doesn’t mean we can’t be sad about it. And when there are daily reminders about it all over the place, it’s unreasonable for us to expect ourselves to just get over cancer, or any other illness.
It’s not like I feel grief for my organs. “Oh, the head of my pancreas, I loved him so, and I miss him dearly. Why must he have been decapitated?”
I suppose it’s a grief for more intangible things. Time lost, self known, future imagined, trust in body, ignorance about mortality. Of course, I remember some of these from the first time around.
I had a really good weekend applying for my PhD and planning a holiday, so to be sad at intervals between these things (and mildly anxious about upcoming checkups) does feel a bit like I’m trying to get on with enjoying life while everything around me is on fire. But I need to remember that being a cancer survivor comes with feelings of grief, and it’s normal and fine to be sad. There’s no need to hide it or try to stop it. It’s the same if you’ve had any distressing experiences, whatever they are. It’s not self-pitying (which seems to be frowned upon in society) to grieve. Emotions are complex and it’s okay to have them, and take time sorting through them. Just let yourself be sad for a while if that’s what you need.