Sentience

Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

    

Samuel Taylor Coleridge – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Sailing Away

Sentience is a blessing and a curse. Some days are more cursed than others.

I didn’t watch The ‘C’ Word. I followed Lisa’s Blog but didn’t have the necessary psychological flood defences in place to watch her story played out on television. A dramatisation and by all accounts a very good one, it might be better categorised as reality TV. It reflects the harsh reality of breast cancer where life no longer comes with a happily ever after guarantee. Some people with breast cancer do not survive. Some people with breast cancer die. Some of them are very young.

Survival has been playing on my mind a lot lately because there is no rhyme or reason to it. No-one knows who among us will outpace the frightful fiend, who might be forced to endure it to the bitter end or who might find themselves facing it on more than one occasion.  This is ambiguity on anabolic steroids and uncertainty reigns supreme. In this version of reality sentience is more curse than blessing. Lately it seems for every survival story there are multiple stories of an all too early demise.

As humans with a limited time on earth we must learn a crucial lesson – never take anything for granted. Health, strength, life itself, these things can all be taken from us in the blink of an eye.  Most people don’t need to think about mortality on a daily basis and that’s probably a good thing because life would be very depressing if we did. Those of us who do think about it – a thought pattern that is almost inevitable after a life-threatening illness – probably do ourselves no favours. Worrying about our own mortality doesn’t change the final outcome. This is another scenario where sentience proves to be more of a curse than a blessing.

So what of the blessings? Feeling the sun on our skin, watching grass grow, celebrating another birthday, anniversary, Diwali or Christmas are all blessings. Walking in the park, riding a bike, reading a book, those things are blessings too because life after cancer is difficult. It throws up questions for which there are no answers and searching for answers offers no reprieve. The simple act of waking up each day is a blessing in this reality, when you have no idea how many days are yet to come.

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17 thoughts on “Sentience

  1. Well said. Each new day is a gift and we can choose how we want to face it. Sure, there will be many days when we will need to lean on others and that’s no problem–just do it. That said, there are many, many days when we open our eyes and are able to face the world with strength. On those we should summon our strength and just take it on!

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  2. “…searching for answers offers no reprieve.” Tracy, your words are so pertinent. In the last five years since diagnosis, it seems I’ve been on a constant search to gather meaning, or at least make some sense out of my cancer experience. You’re right. There are no answers and no reprieve from such a search.

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  3. Hi Tracy,
    Your words ring so true. And I also have heard good things about, “The ‘C’ Word”. It’s understandable that you didn’t feel up to watching it though. Self-care has to come first. Thank you for your eloquent words.

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  4. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: Life Is Precious Edition | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  5. Dear Tracy,

    I am finding the only way to survive that is meaningful and helps keep my eye on the prize – a life reinvented that has purpose and joy – is to practice living through my heart. so much of what we struggle with really doesn’t matter any more. what matters is how we utilize, embrace, and practice the gifts of gratitude, hope, compassion, forgiveness, and love towards ourselves and others. there are times when the reels of destructive self-talk spin in my head; much of the time these last 2 years I have felt as if I am losing my mind. the “after” of a diagnosis of cancer (s), to say nothing of widowhood, provides plenty of fodder for the fires that catch flame, and insist on burning on and on in my brain and are so difficult to squelch. employing those practices is finally helping – along with some other mind/body interventions. but I still find it VERY HARD to keep on track, on the path of changing my thinking on almost everything – stumble, fall, get up. repeat.

    I so appreciate this insightful and beautifully written post; we all need the kind of encouragement and validation you have provided. thankyou, thankyou.

    much love,

    Karen

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    • Dearest Karen,
      You teach us all so many things: to retain strength when bruised and besieged, to rekindle faith when the earth quivers beneath our feet, to reframe thoughts and see light in darkness, to rediscover our hearts, opening them to every particle of beauty in this world.

      You bring many gifts to those whose souls you touch and amongst those gifts is the continued inspiration to take joy in life no matter what any given day might bring. I am so very grateful for the kindness, love and encouragement you share dear friend, the difference you make is invaluable. Xoxox

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  6. keep on in there, there is always hope.

    my former oncology consultant dr sasha howell of the Christie, the one who cannot be bothered to read a patients notes, even partly, even the first page, even the first paragraph with the patients name on it, has become boss on the 30 days terminal pathway project. at least it is what it says it is,

    I was admitted to an acute medical ward at manchester royal at the 3 weeks ago ( urgent lung condition) , and about 20% of the patients were being “euthanized”, many of the vulnerable patients being tricked into swallowing drug overdoses. ONe poor lady was being tiraded at by a dr with an eastern European accent– she tiraded , you are a burden on society, you are a burden your family, you are not going to receive treatment, if you want to get resuscitated the doctor will jump on top of you and break all your ribs ( the latter certainly should not happen during any cpr)—I can only describe it as a hate crime by the dr, and people of that age often have trust and respect in the lying bunch of b*********s. The male medics were even more chilling, describing what you say and do in front of relatives to not arouse any suspicion.

    They get away with it because they work on “multidisciplinary teams”with at least 5 on my ward bed area being part of it, and the others ok with it….it reduces their workload. It reduces social care costs and they get a money bonus!

    sorry for being depressing, off to do something nice, see my mum and design some houses.

    Rhona

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    • Dear Rhona, there is something sinister at the heart of acute and elder care which we discovered when my mother-in-law died alone and unexpectedly three years ago following a short stay in hospital and a move to a “better” care home. It is unconscionable that those who have given so much throughout their lives should be seen as so worthless once beyond a certain age or range of ability yet that is how it seems… I hope you are recovered from your lung condition and stay well xoxox

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  7. Glad to hear from you again. I miss your sense of humour which helped me through my dark days of Taxotare. You have given yourself the best chance of survival, which has taken courage. Count those little blessings, when we don’t know how long we must live every day to the full ( not easy when the body rebels !) and keep fighting . The C word was good but didn’t show the true nightmare of Fec T, apart from a few shots at they end. Take care L

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    • It has been a humourless period of late Liz though not from thoughts of health or the future. I must remind myself that sometimes, some people (not all) are simply stuck in a version of the world that I need not be part of nor allow to spoil my precious days. Sending love and happiness your way 🙂

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      • I understand, while something is being done to ‘stem the flow’ however grim however much you want it to stop , it brings out a fighting spirit . The after path that follows is a very lonely one. I am luckier than most triple negative ( the young persons cancer ) hit me at 69, so I have had many years, seen my children and my grand children too grow into beautiful people. Initially I was told I was too old to have the “gene” then was hit with a thunderbolt being told that the all 3- were being tested ,the bench mark had been raised by 20 + years in 6 months. Luckily I don’t have the gene it is the last thing I want to pass on. But Chemo, particularly Tax, followed by 4 weeks of RT has left its toll physically. I was a young active 69 year old a year ago and soon I turn 70 and feel like an octogenarian. Medically I fall constantly between two stools , I am told to remain body aware in case secondaries lurk. But my GP puts everything down to Chemo and the hospital put everything down to general medicine. I wish I had you way with words. .. and Lisa’ blog on TV was good but only a few seconds when her partner carried her out of the bath really showed quite how ruthless FEC- T is on body. Take care and I look forward to your next blog

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