Physio

You might remember that in hospital I had the most awesome physio, Kat. She was the perfect blend of sympathetic and no-nonsense, which must be so important when you’re dealing with people coming out of a big, potentially life-changing surgery. She’s not going to let you lie around and feel sorry for yourself, but she’s not going to push you further than you can mentally handle, and she carries herself compassionately. She was my best friend, we felt like a team. I’m sure I frustrated her to no end at times, always going too fast, trying to do everything myself, never relaxing, but she would patiently tell me to slow down and always with a smile. I’ve visited her a couple of times since I’ve been out and just seeing her makes me feel so happy. Kat, if you’re reading this, you’re the best and I should come say hi again soon!

Anyway.

Since I’ve left I’ve been back for physio, but as an outpatient (‘why does your face need physio?’ Asked my boss. ‘Not my face, my shoulder!’ Having a shoulder, leg and neck injury for a face surgery will never lose its novelty). So outpatient physio means no more Kat, but a brand new person! Gasp! Luckily ‘new person’ is otherwise known as ‘Francesca’ and she is also amazing.

I don’t know how these people do it, but from the second I met her I felt like I was seeing an old friend. She is so warm and approachable and… Well… Fun! When I go to an appointment, she not only cares about how my shoulder is, she cares about how I am. She wants to know how I’ve been going and we chat and catch up on the last couple of weeks. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the professionals I have met along the way over the last year who make me feel like this are SO important. I’ve never felt like going to three appointments is a chore, I’ve never felt like I’m ‘ill’, more just catching up with friends.

She also doesn’t inundate me with exercises. I’m sure she could give me thousands, and I’ve had physios before who have, but it’s just not practical. As it is, I sometimes forget a couple (oops…) but I do try to be good, I promise. She also makes me printouts so I have no excuses to forget my exercises!

It’s a funny feeling as you get better and thus see these people less. Of course it’s a good thing, but it’s sad to eventually have to say goodbye to these incredible people who helped you through the hardest times of your life. Well all, if it counts for anything, I’ll never forget any of you.

Wow, has it really been a month?

So I’ve been trying to start going back to work. It’s harder than I thought it would be. That’s why I’ve disappeared from here for a bit, just concentrating on getting through the days. I didn’t realise it had been quite so long since my last post.

The first point to make is how lucky I am that my work is being so supportive. It sounds like a cliche but they feel like family, and they’ve been there for me when I’ve needed them. I could write a novel about how grateful I am.

People tried to prepare me for the struggles I would meet in trying to get back into life and work and I figured that wouldn’t apply to me. I mean hey, I was even working when I could during my months of chemo. Why would this be any worse? Oh wow, it’s worse.

Physically, it’s hard. I get tired (really tired) and some days I can’t even get out of bed, let alone out of the house, let alone do a day of work. But I managed four days last week, so I’m pretty happy with that. I don’t know why I’m so exhausted, I was bad from chemo but have been so much worse since surgery. It took me weeks post surgery to be able to get through the day without needing a nap. I’m better now, but definitely need to build back up to where I was a year ago.

At the moment it seems to go one of two ways – either I’m fine and can go to work and last quite well and be perky and useful, maybe even manage going out for dinner after work, or I can’t move or use my brain at all and even just talking to someone takes it out of me. There seems to be nothing in the middle. I’m learning what I’m capable of and what is pushing myself too hard. It’s so funny starting from scratch and having no idea what you can and can’t do. Everything I once knew has changed.

The other difficult thing is mentally coming back to work. I mean it’s hard to go back to work after a week off. Try being off for months after having had every part of you attacked. I’ve used my brain reading and writing over the past year but getting my mind back into work is hard. Chemo brain is a thing, and they say it can take a year to get anaesthetic out of your system. Having said that, I still remember everything that happened when I was there and have caught up on emails of things that happened in between.

But more than that, they have survived without me all this time, it’s been hard trying to work out how I fit back into it all. Am I still needed? And it feels so weird just trying to slot back into my old life as if nothing happened. I’ve been feeling pretty down over the last few weeks, just feeling so overwhelmed by it all and not knowing where I fit into my old life, or where it fits into me. But after the first couple of weeks of just focussing 100% on work and not being able to do anything else, I have started doing some socialising too, which has made all the difference. A Saturday night spent at the local pub with my housemates, a drink after work with colleagues. Getting back to work full time is my main priority, but I’ve realised I can’t do it at the expense of everything else, so now I’m trying to balance it with occasionally seeing friends. I even went to a friend’s gig the other night, and I just re-joined the gym and did my first (easy) workout in almost a year.

It will get easier, it will get better. But, as warned, this part is difficult. People say to me ‘wow! Everything’s finished, you’re all better now!’ I appreciate the thought and the sentiment, but that’s so far from the truth. But I’m doing well. I’m starting to feel a lot stronger. I’m struggling to get good sleep thanks to not being able to breathe through my nose, but hopefully the few hours I manage are enough to keep me going.

Everyone who checks in on me or asks when we can catch up gives me more strength, and every day I manage to feel more normal gets me one step closer to living my life properly again.