#childrensmhw 2017 | Coping with Cancer, and My Mountain of Happiness
“I’m sorry to tell you, you have 2 to 6 years to live”
I could not comprehend these words; all I could think of was my two children. I really did not want them to grow up without a mum, with a hole where I should be. I didn’t want their special moments to be tinged with sadness that I wasn’t there to share them. All of my hopes and dreams were slowly evaporating as my mind worked through what this sentence really did mean to me.
That awful sentence is only partially true, because I did have the chance of a cure, if I had a bone marrow transplant sometime in the future and depending on whether there was someone, somewhere in the world who was a match for me. The time wasn’t right, though, for a transplant as my quality of life was still too good to warrant the risks.
“Go and live life as normal”
Are you kidding me? How do you live as normal when you know that you are dying?
A few days after I had been diagnosed, my husband had gone to work and my children to school. I was sitting on my settee crying; deep, heartbreaking sobs. I felt completely sad, desperate and isolated. As I sat there, I remembered a sentence I had read once: “If you die tomorrow, will you be remembered as you want to be remembered?” The sad realisation for me was that “no, I wouldn’t be remembered as I wanted to be”. It’s a very sad feeling. I felt like I had let myself and my family down, but at the same time this was the catalyst that drove me to change my answer!
"I wouldn’t be remembered as I wanted to be" @JayneMSnell #childrensmhw #MHCPUK #gratitude #happiness
I knew I did not want to spend whatever time I did have crying and feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to be the happy, loving, bubbly person I normally am and, more than anything, I wanted those I love to truly and deeply feel that love. I had regrets; don’t we all? I have learnt to let go of those regrets. What purpose where they serving? I started making the move to becoming the person I wanted to be; to be the person I wanted to be remembered as. As my diagnosis seemed to wipe away any control I had, I took back some of the control over my future.
It’s alright to feel sad and down, especially when we receive bad news, but it is important that we know how to protect ourselves from staying sad and in that dark place, that we know ultimately we will be ok, that we have tools or techniques that we know work for us, so that each day we can take steps towards happier and lighter days. It is about taking little steps each day and forming those good habits that help protect our emotional wellbeing. Then when those knocks come, we are better equipped to deal with them.
Here are some ideas for you to consider. It may be that one or two truly ‘sing’ to you and you think, “yes I would like to do that”. Maybe none of them ‘sing’ to you, but do try them. See which ones make an impact; you may just be surprised. Be open to the change you want to feel. It may only be a small change in the beginning, but small steps add up. Be patient with yourself.
My Mountain of Happiness
Being grateful for the good things in my life was incredibly powerful in taking my attention away from my illness and moving my focus towards the many good things. It can be hard to see what is good in very dark times, but maybe it is that you have a safe room/home, that you have food to eat, that you have people you can talk to, that you have clean clothes to wear, that you can listen to birdsong on a morning, that you get to walk in nature, that you have your sight and can ‘see’, that you have a coat you can put on to keep you warm.
Each morning think about what you are grateful for and connect with it in your heart, in your mind, with your emotions and feel the ‘why’ you are grateful for it. Write it down if you can, as this amplifies the impact. Each evening, before you sleep think of 3 things you are grateful for that day, and again connect with your emotions.
Be Kind to Yourself
Be gentle with yourself; treat yourself with kindness! Think how you would support a friend or a loved one and try to treat yourself the same. Accept that you are having a personal crisis, or feeling low/sad or overwhelmed and try to let go of the bad feelings. Treat yourself with kindness and be your own friend.
A few other ideas for being kind to yourself and dealing with the emotional challenges you are facing are:
- Get some rest and relaxation time – try meditation (there are lots of excellent apps available), colour, knit, crotchet, do some gardening, listen to music or read a book).
- Get some gentle exercise – walking, swimming, cycling etc.
- Try to eat a healthy balanced diet.
- Get a good night’s sleep. This is so important in helping us have good perspective, good judgement, good focus ad good energy levels.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol.
It turned out I didn’t have 2 – 6 years to live, as 7 months later I was diagnosed with a second blood cancer. This was really bad news and not a good place to be! BUT, with the help of the above I managed to stay positive, happy and focused on what was important to me. This stuff really works! I’ve tested it time after time. I live it every day.
I was very fortunate to find a stem cell donor; a remarkable young man. A stranger in Germany. I had my transplant in July 2012, and every day I wake up grateful that I am alive, that I am getting to see my children grow up to be amazing young adults, and I am incredibly grateful to the young man who saved my life. I then continue to think of more things that I am grateful for, so that I truly am standing on my Mountain of Happiness.
This week, as it's Children's Mental Health Week, we have launched our Mental Health Children's Premium campaign and our Mental Health Provision in Schools questionnaire.
Do you have a view on Mental Health provision in UK schools?