I’ve had another unplanned absence from the blog, as I’m sure my more committed readers are aware. A good friend that I met through the blog, Julie, requested I add a complaints section so she could voice her dissatisfaction at the lack of posts recently. Lucky for me, I’m sharp enough to realise that this was actually a compliment. Adding a compliments section sounds far better for my fragile ego so I’m considering this; I couldn’t take a section dedicated only to complaints, it’d give the blood nurses a place to fire back.
I have been writing for the blog over the past week but I haven’t managed to be happy with anything I have produced. Last week I felt like I was on quite a roll and was getting into a good swing with the posts. There were a few drafts that were very developed, and I was happy with them. The problem I’ve found is that every time I have gone back to them since I had treatment on Saturday, I haven’t managed to engage with the same mood or I’ve found myself over-editing the stuff that is already there as opposed to adding anything new. The result is similar to trying to get your toddler to eat their vegetables by forcing them to sit at the table, but all they do is push the peas and carrots around the plate. You commit a lot of time but don’t really change any of the result. If you then combine that with being in week 1 of a chemotherapy cycle again, after having an extra week off during the last cycle, you may start to sympathise more with my lack of posts… or maybe you won’t, but that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
The lack of posts has been hanging heavy on my mind. There’s an annoying duality about the blog, as there is about many things in life that have a positive effect on us as individuals. The blog helps me greatly in so many ways, as a form of catharsis, as a means of communicating what is currently going on with my treatment and, more generally, a means of connecting with others in similar situations. The negatives are more visible when you start to realise that this source of positivity has a corresponding negative effect on you when you are not meeting your expectations with regards to it. This week I have spent more time thinking about how I can’t seem to write anything I like and getting angry at myself over it than I have just sitting down and enjoying writing something. It has become a source of distress as opposed to an outlet for any stress I am feeling. The source of the problem is actually myself, of course. If I didn’t put pressure on myself to NEED to write something, then I wouldn’t feel such an obligation to make something work and I’d likely enjoy writing more, which would make me post again. This is why I have been taking a few days and just accepting that it hasn’t been the right time. I don’t want this to become another stick that I beat myself with; I’m already disappointed in how little I’m reading, how little I’m doing yoga and how much this chemotherapy cycle seems to have rocked me again. Disappointment is not something I am in short supply of when it comes to my own expectations of myself recently. The blog is supposed to be my happy place; apparently, I need to take steps to keep it that way.
There are other things that are frustrating me too, of course. Not every source of discomfort and negativity in my life is due to me not reading enough books, which in itself is an obscure standard that I set myself without realising I do so. I got a call from my life insurance provider the other day, which was at its best comical, and at its worst, incredibly frustrating. I say ‘my life insurance provider’ loosely as they are not my life insurance provider anymore, due to them cancelling my cover as soon as I was diagnosed with cancer. This was because I had reported abdominal pain to a doctor a year prior to being diagnosed, but was cleared of any cancer after doing an ultrasound and various tests. The problem was that I was never given a formal diagnosis of anything else, so the life insurance company saw the opportunity, and cut and run. I’m not their biggest fan since they did so. The person who called me asked if I was ready to renegotiate my life insurance. This confused me somewhat, and I asked him why I would renegotiate the life insurance that they cancelled due to me having cancer. He then went through his records and found the part which said I had been diagnosed with cancer. “Oh, sorry about that,” he said, apparently sincerely. “Yeah, you’re going to need to recover from that and then wait a couple of years before trying to get covered I’m afraid mate.” It seemed he had forgotten who had called who.
The next day I got contacted by another agent at the same firm. After airing out my frustration that they kept trying to sell me life insurance that they had cancelled, she informed me that I could be covered for everything APART from anything cancer-related… I’m not sure why these people think I would welcome this sort of news with open arms. I think we are guided by a different set of moral principles. Not that I am blaming these individuals, I understand they are likely following processes that are standard throughout their company. I like to think I’d have more awareness of how an individual would respond to such things, though, and change my approach accordingly. Isn’t that the whole point of being a good salesman? They just made me hate insurance companies more than I already did.
My other frustration is my employer putting up barriers to me returning to work. I always naively assumed that if you catch cancer, especially at a very young age where it is statistically extremely unlikely, you would be supported by a plethora of company and government policies. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. What you quickly find is that there is very little there to support you. I work for a Local Government authority in a very left-leaning part of the country, and they have been awful in supporting me. The HR department actually told me that it isn’t their responsibility to deal directly with employees, but it is their job to offer support to managers where they require it. So, if my manager is struggling to deal with the fact that they have a 28-year-old employee who has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, HR will support her, but will not take on any responsibility of speaking to me directly. It is astonishing. When I sent an email to the HR department to voice that I am struggling, I actually got an email back from the HR representative beginning with “Hello Dan. I hope you’re doing well today.” I’m hoping that she got the award for ‘Most tone-deaf employee’ at the year-end awards. It all just makes you feel that they couldn’t care less about the situation, and are not attempting to do anything to help you out of it.
I’m wanting to return to work part-time, but they seem to have other ideas. Despite the fact that I am managing to run a few times a week, have started a blog that I regularly contribute towards and have raised over £7,000 for pancreatic cancer UK, they seem to be determined to find ways to limit my return. They requested that occupational health write a report on the situation as an independent third party company who have some medical expertise. The report that they produced was laughable at times, even floating the idea of Ill Health Retirement… what the point of this would be, I don’t know. Now they want a report from my specialist backing up that I can return to work in some fashion, but I am struggling to get through to the oncology team to get this report. It’s such a frustrating situation and not one that I like to complain about too often. It isn’t worth the mental stress at the minute, there are far bigger things to focus on. There are entire policies supporting a phased return to work, but it seems there is no actual desire to put these policies into place in my situation.
I didn’t plan for the first post to become this ranty but maybe that is what I needed to get out of my system. This chemotherapy cycle has been quite interesting so I feel I have quite a bit to say about it, but I’ll save all of that for the next Chemotherapy Diaries post. The weather is beautiful this morning. My friend Kirsty is visiting from London for a few hours so I’m going to make sure we get out in the sun and enjoy the day! The next post will be more positive, I swear. Hope you have a great Friday!