“Excuse me, my thermostat’s not working”

25 Oct

While having breakfast with my good friend Yunyi today, I shared with her about my current situation as a cancer survivor. One year on, after the gruelling regime of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, I am now at a point in life where I need to make certain important decisions which will have a huge impact on my life in the next few year, or possibly the rest of my life. Instead of feeling the “Carpe Diem” which I read quite a lot in cancer survivors’ stories, I am overwhelmed by fear and consumed with worry.

A counsellor whom I spoke with two weeks ago turned the light on my current medical condition. A combination of chemotherapy and Goserelin injections has pushed my body into a state of induced menopause. Besides the physical symptoms of hot flashes, fatigue, dry skin etc., one of the side effects which I did not expect to hit me full on the face, was the emotional upheaval with the lack of estrogen.

This lack of estrogen is such a pain in the ass. The crying, the despair, the negativity, the fear, the fuzzy brain… all these just because of a hormonal inbalance in my body? Knowing that makes me feel like honouring all women who have to go through menopause. Compounded with having to make a decision about relocation to a non-English speaking country where I have to start all over again, I am suffering from a paralysis.

The paralysis stems from a number of things; mostly from a changed self. Nobody from my healthcare told me about the emotional recovery I will need after cancer treatment. Small things now upset me, making me sob uncontrollably. Instead of feeling confident and a “I can do anything because I survived cancer” attitude, I feel more blue than usual, more pessimistic … hardly like myself at all. My counsellor told me that it is as if I have a pair of shades on all the time, that through my menopause shades, the world is three tones darker than it really is. It is as if the thermostat to my air-conditioning is faulty and does not respond correctly to the external temperature.

With that, how can I make any decisions about my life, or regarding my partner? I don’t trust the new me, I find it hard to understand what goes through my mind, my decisions. They are all tangled up in a ball with overwhelming emotions.

Yunyi suggested that I learn how to do a centering exercise where I learn how to breathe deeply and return my self to a “centering” position without being overwhelmed by emotions. Another thing she suggested is for me to write down reasons for my fears and courage pertaining to relocation. I have learnt that this estrogen deficiency tends to amplify whatever emotions I feel, so if I feel fear – it is probably three times more than what a normal person, or the normal me would feel. Yunyi’s suggestion is that maybe I should visit the reason of fear, so instead of being caught up in the intensity of fear, get to know and understand the seed of the fear.

I think that’s a good suggestion, at least before I see my next medical counsellor.

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