Battling with the first anniversary? You’re not alone.

It was 6 months since being told I was in remission. My strength was back, my hair was looking pretty much back to normal, I’d just completed a 3 month contract in London for work and Christmas and New Year was just about upon us. Everything was going right, I was able to enjoy all the festivities, time with the family & friends, shopping, and this year we’d be hosting our first ever family Christmas meal at our home. So what could be wrong?

As happy as this time of year was on the surface, I was approaching my first anniversary of finding the lump. Little did I know it but just a year ago I had Cancer, I just didn’t know it.

Approaching the first anniversary was becoming an ever harder mental challenge the closer I was getting to the 8th January.

If someone had asked me 9 months prior that I would be able to enjoy Christmas & New Year in 2018, I wouldn’t have believed them, but here I was, presented with the opportunity to savour every minute of it but I had what can only be called as a gremlin sat on my shoulder reminding me of ‘this time last year’ and telling me how stupid I was not to have known what was wrong with me. How could I enjoy this Christmas if something was wrong with me again? Sounds stupid right? But as my Oncologist told me the Mental journey after Cancer is one of the hardest parts of the battle.

Approaching the first anniversary, no matter how much I tried to change my mindset was a battle. I had the support of my wife, family and Councillor but no words seemed to be able to comfort me for more than a day or two. I’d simply slip back in to the ‘what if’ mindset. If I didn’t know I had cancer this time last year, what’s different this year?

Dark thoughts, moments of sadness, vulnerability and weakness were a daily struggle. At times I tried my upmost to keep them to myself, but when my mind took me to really dark places I had to express them to those closest to me; which in the vast majority of cases was my rock, my wife.

As Christmas day came and went, New Years approached. A chance to start a new year, not with the baggage and challenges of 2018, but a fresh start.

We saw in the New Year with friends. A day later I started my new job. Six days later the 8th January arrived. A pretty ordinary day for most but not for me. I woke up and from the start of the day relived every single moment of the same day a year prior as if it was yesterday. From stepping in to the shower and wondering whether or not I should call the doctor, to stepping out and asking Robin what I should do. Thankfully I had made the call. As the day progressed I seemed to get stronger, I guess I got a sense of closure and certainty that this year was going to be different as the day drew to an end I was still OK, no sign of a lump.

The couple of weeks leading up to my first anniversary of finding the lump which ultimately led to my Cancer diagnosis was difficult, it was an mental battle I hadn’t prepared for. If you’re approaching your first anniversary and find yourself battling with reaching the date your life would change forever, please try to accept it. As my councillor told me, it is normal for a traumatic event to play out in your head, especially if you’re a ‘thinker’ like me. Try to speak to those you’re close to, listen to their words, take the advice they share and try to be strong. Time will heal you, physically and mentally. Unfortunately, there’s just no clean cut end point for everyone. I’m writing this blog in May 2019 and still find myself on a weekly basis battling with the mental and emotional impact Cancer has had on my life.

Try to use your first anniversary to look back and see how far you’ve come, how strong you’ve been, how much love you’ve had from those closest to you and how great it is to be able to enjoy life again.

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