A couple of days before I was diagnosed, a colleague was going through some paperwork from HR, and read out some blurb about 'death in service' protocol. Someone in the office made a comment along the lines of "as if we're ever going to need that", and the thought flashed through my head "that's me. I'm going to be the death in service". It startled me, as I couldn't understand where on earth that thought had come from - I was feeling fine and in a good mood, but that line about death in service echoed through my mind at unexpected moments for weeks afterwards, and made me feel really uneasy and a little bit daft. I know that these things are just coincidences, but they play on my mind all the same...
I had a feeling that Tuesday wasn't going to go the way that I hoped. I thought that the fact that I was being called in to talk about my scan results rather receive the all-clear over the phone told me all I needed to know. I was wrong. What I expected was that my consultant would tell me that the cancer had reached the bone at the base of my skull (per the anomalies on my CT scan), and then talk about a new plan of attack. The news he delivered was worse than I had anticipated. Hearing that the cancer was inside my skull, in the dural layer of my brain, took my breath away. When I asked about prognosis and heard that I have 6 months at best, I felt frozen to the spot. This was so much worse, so unexpected, and I was in complete disbelief, unable to process the fact that their words related to me - I felt detached from the diagnosis being discussed. I glanced at my brother, who'd come with me expecting to hear good things about my scan, and he looked so sad and hurt. During the rest of the appointment I shed a few tears, but it wasn't until I got back to Dad's house and he hugged me that I lost it. I sobbed and sobbed in the doorway while he kept saying 'I'm sorry Hannah'.
Since then, I have been all over the place. I'm trying to stay positive and make the best of each day (I've even been changing out of my pajamas before midday!), but I am desperately, indescribably sad.
The day after the consultation was my niece's birthday - 7th - and I went round to spend some time with her and drop off my present. It was so, so difficult. I was trying to be engaged and happy and chat with her and my nephew, while the whole time blinking a lot to stop myself from crying, and feeling sick and stomach-achey with distress. As I arrived I had thought "this is the last birthday of hers I'll be here for", and "I feel so normal, yet this time next year I won't be here. I don't understand", and then "perhaps I'll buy a present to leave behind for her on her 18th...but that's 11 years away (!) - will she even remember me then?!". Thinking about my niece and nephew, realising I won't get to know them as teens then adults, won't know what subjects they like, what music they get into, what their first Saturday jobs are or how their personalities will turn out hurts me physically - I get a headache and stomach ache thinking about it.
More than that though, the thing that distresses me the most is knowing that my dad and brother have been through all of this all before, and only 5 years ago. I know how hard that was and what a toll it took, and I hate the thought of them having to deal with it all over again. I worry about them both anyway, but now more than ever, knowing I won't be able to look after Dad as he gets older, or hang out with Ed when he's feeling sad about his sister / mum. I'm not ready. I've not had enough time with them.
The final recurring thought swimming about in my head is about my friends, and all of the things I had taken for granted that I would experience with them - marriages, kids, parties, holidays, New Years eves, house warmings, annual trips to the eco shed with the horror that is the bucket toilet... I have, without a jot of tongue in cheek/irony, major FOMO. By the time my friends reach retirement age and start taking SAGA holidays to cat conventions together I'll be 30 years gone, a very distant memory. I've never had huge ambitions or felt that I needed to leave a major mark on the world, but it's horrible thinking of being forgotten, gradually fading from memory as life goes on.
I don't know how other people do this, I don't know how they begin to accept and come to terms with it. I want to, but this is hard.