The Reality of Getting Ill After Cancer

Cancer & Me

What do you do, when your favourite place is also your absolute worst?  When I remember having cancer I am always in one of two places.  One (as you would expect) is the hospital, the other is in bed at home.  Both were accompanied by dark emotions of fear, anxiety and discomfort — physical and mental.

Although it was more comfortable being in bed at home, it was also scarier.  The security of having medical staff, diagnostic tools and the (seriously good) painkillers nearby would be stripped away and I would feel so much more vulnerable.  I couldn’t press a little buzzer and say to someone within a matter of moments; Is this normal?  Should I be concerned?  I think something is wrong.  I had to determine those things on my own and would be constantly double guessing my own judgement.

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If you follow me on social media, you will probably know that over the last few months I have had a number of bladder infections, kidney infections and Sepsis.  The most recent being last week when I ended up in A&E — again!  Each time these illness’ have seriously knocked me for six and I have ended up back in bed for days whilst the medication does its thing. Immediately I am thrown back into a very strange headspace.

I don’t worry about it being cancer or anything like that, but being back in bed is still very triggering for me.  Those feelings of fear, anxiety and discomfort come back.  The vulnerability of taking responsibility for whether I am OK or not and the constant double guessing of myself, overwhelms me.  The ability to see an infection as just an illness being easily treated is lost as I fall headfirst down the emotional rabbit hole.

Being in bed whilst sick gets me so upset and tearful, even though logically I know I am being ridiculous.  I know I haven’t got cancer.  I know once the antibiotics kick-in I’ll be fine.  I know that unlike before, I’m not going to be stuck in bed for months on end with a complete lack of control over myself and my health.  Even so, it still triggers all of these negative emotions and connotations.

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There is a reason for this.  It is caused by the way our brains hold onto emotional memories and create shortcuts.  Once the brain associates a ‘thing’ with an ’emotion’ — in my case, being in bed sick = fear, vulnerability and very long-term, severe illness — the brain will quickly recall that emotional memory when in a similar situation.*

As horrible as my sickness recalls are, they are nowhere near as bad as they used to be.  I’m getting better at saying to myself – this is just an emotional memory, it’s not what’s happening now, but it’s not a flawless system.  Sometimes I’m so in the depth of despair, I’m not able to remind myself, but I do try and I am getting better.  Plus, as I continue to get ill and recover, my brain will start to create new shortcuts and I will have a different set of memory recalls.  It will just take time.

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I think this story serves as a reminder that cancer isn’t over and done with as soon as the doctor says, you’re all clear.  As with anything, it takes time for the emotional fall-out to settle, for your emotional resilience to build back up and for your brain to create new shortcuts.  It is also a great reminder that it is not a straight upward line from feeling shite to feeling fine all the time.  Like life, there are up’s and down’s, followed by one step forward then ten steps back, followed by a few stumbles along the way.

So if, like me, you are feeling all the things right now, logical and completely illogical, just know that you’re not alone – I’m right there with you!

Stay healthy!
Nx

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About Nicola
Nicola is the author of ‘The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer’ part memoir, part guide for people going through, or supporting someone going through cancer.  Nicola has also published creative fiction and non-fiction, and copyedits and writes for others.   Nicola also runs online  Writing Workshops throughout the year, sharing her love of reading and writing with everyone!

*You can read more about emotional memory here…

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Book Review

Wow!  This book is claustrophobic, stunning and full of distorted truths.  It is beautifully written and even though it is based ‘somewhere else’ the imagery Mackintosh creates paints the most wonderful pictures and brings the whole place alive in your mind.

What is even more crucial to this story is the relationships between the characters.  Between siblings, between parents, between lovers, between friends, they are all complicated, raw and full of sharp observations from Mackintosh.

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The language in this story is incredible and moving.  Every word was placed with consideration, builds into the narrative as a whole and creates a feeling of unease.  Even when falling in love a character says ‘My heart swells like a broken hand to twice its size, the same sort of tenderness.’  Even love in this world has an undercurrent of potential danger.  This unease also swells throughout the story through the clever use of language.

Although Mackintosh is writing about an unknown dystopia; our own world, our treatment of each other, the taught behaviour and performative gender are all reflected back at us, offering a fascinating commentary on our own world and our own actions within it.

I can see why some people are not sure about this book, it is impossible to place and throws you straight into its dystopia with no explanation, but personally, I think it works brilliantly as it builds into the confusion that the three sisters feel.

This book will certainly be added to my favourite reads of  2018.

Read more about The Water Cure here…

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What have you been reading recently?  Let me know and let’s have a chat about it in the comments.  I’m always on the lookout for new great reads!

Happy Reading!

Nicola x

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Thank you NetGalley and Penguin for sending me a Kindle edition of The Water Cure in exchange for an honest review.

 

Book Review // Educated by Tara Westover

Book Review by Nicola Bourne

Educated is the incredible memoir of Tara Westover who, after being raised on the edge (in so many ways) seeks to educate herself (also, in so many ways).  Westover seeks education in the literal sense – she has no formal education growing up.  In a worldly sense – her parents are extreme fundamentalists who cut their children off from interaction with ‘outsiders’.  And in a personal sense – how does a young woman fit into a world she has no sense of?

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At the beginning of the memoir, I found it very hard to place this book, or put it into any sort of time period, but I think that was the point.  I want to bring order to the book because my childhood and life is relatively ordered.  Westover’s was not.  She cannot put a timeframe on her life because she didn’t even know her own birthdate and only had a rough idea of her age.  Westover very cleverly brings this feeling of displacement of time into the text.  Geographically, I found this novel memoir very hard to place, but again, that’s the point.  It’s based somewhere out on the fringes of society that you don’t normally see, that is easily ignored.

One of my favourite things about this book is that it steers away from having a breakthrough moment, where everything after that point is fine.  Even once she is ‘educated’ the emotional struggle and need to find her place is in a continual flux.  At points, you think she has left her physically violent and mentally toxic family behind, only for her to go back to them.  Like life, her journey ebbs and flows ad the trauma of her childhood echo’s through into adulthood.

I found this book completely engaging and I highly recommend it.

Click here for more information on Educated by Tara Westover

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Thank you NetGalley and Random House for allowing me to review Educated by Tara Westover.

 

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Creative Writing, Poetry

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Stars don’t die quietly

they scream light into the blazing sky

with Ares’ sword pointed towards themselves

 

spitting and burning the

truth

they splatter blinding supernovas

into the black padding of the night

 

dying stars don’t wink at the moon but take

pride in their indifference to

Death

and their

Love of the withering

light that burns them up from the inside

constellations of dust and

dents that hold the everlasting dark

 

until they do no more and

_

 

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This Isn’t School!

Creative Writing

A few people have said they want to take part in the Let’s Start Writing workshop but are worried as they are busy Monday.  Please do not worry!

I will email you the details on Monday 7th May but you have plenty of time to do them and work at your own pace. You don’t send anything back to me for a couple of weeks so again, plenty of time.

Rest assured you can do the tasks on a day that suits you & there’s space for catching up – this isn’t school! 😊

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There is only one place left so sign up now and I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

Let’s Start Writing

Sign up now to join the Let’s Start Writing Workshop starting Monday 17th September 2018

£20.00

 

April Catch-Up

Any Human Heart

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It has been a strange few months as March and April have been full of health issues.  First, I had a middle-of-the-night dash to A&E, where I was quickly diagnosed with Sepsis, brought on by kidney and bladder infections.  I was immediately put on treatment to bring me back from the brink.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis is when you have an infection and your immune system goes into a crazy overdrive, starts attacking your organs and causes inflammation throughout the body.  It is a life-threatening but easily treatable when caught early.

Visit The Sepsis Trust for more information.

Recovering from Sepsis is much harder than I would have ever believed and I was medication for quite a long time after getting home from the hospital.  However, I was on the mend and just when I was finally starting to feel much better, I felt the same symptoms coming on again!  The A&E doctors had told me that if I suspected I had another infection I should come straight back, so that was what I did.  I was showing early signs of sepsis but I was put straight on antibiotics which seemed to stop it in its tracks.  Then it was back to trying to get better again.

Basically, not dying has taken up an incredible amount of time recently!

Getting ill is strange after having had cancer.  In a strange way, it takes me back to those old moments.  Laying in bed recovering = feeling like I have just had chemotherapy.  Going back and forth for hospital appointments = feeling like I am waiting to get some horrible life-changing results.  It is amazing how the brain can immediately trick you into thinking something else is going on and bring old emotions back up.  In some ways, the biggest challenge getting better was the mental battle rather than the physical one.

Needless to say, all of this put me rather behind with work, University and writing but I am finally getting back into the swing of things and I’m still in that dizzyingly excited period you get after you’ve been ill for a long time, where you just want to throw yourself into everything because it is just such a relief not to feel ill.

Writing

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 11.53.04However, in March I did have a short story, ‘Connected’, published in Fifty George Street literary journal.  It’s future fiction, imagining what it might be like trying to stay connected in a technological world.

You can read it on the Fifty George Street website.

Reading

I have read some wonderful books in the first quarter of this year, so I wanted to recommend my top 3 but I am finding it so hard to choose!  So I have ended up going for 4.  All 4 books are emotional but amazing and take you on a complete journey of the heart.  I highly recommend them all to you…

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Maillot ~ The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss ~ Soho by Richard Scott ~ Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Writing Workshop

After listening to the wonderful feedback I have received from people who have taken part in the ‘Let’s Start Writing’ workshop they have a had a bit of a revamp to include the chance to get more feedback on your writing.  I am thrilled with it and can’t wait to get started on Monday 7th May.  If you think you may be interested, please sign up here!

Let’s Start Writing

Sign up now to join the Let’s Start Writing Workshop starting Monday 17th September 2018

£20.00

For the rest of the month, I plan on getting on with writing and working and giving my body time to get stronger and stronger.  What have you been up to?  What have you been reading, writing and doing?  Leave a comment down below so we can have a chat.

Happy April x

Let’s Start Writing!

Creative Writing

I have very exciting news…

REGISTRATION FOR MY NEXT LET’S START WRITING WORKSHOP IS OPEN!

Taking feedback on board I have re-designed the LET’S START WRITING workshop to include a chance to share your work with the group and get encouraging and useful feedback to help you develop and go on to write more!

This online workshop spans over 3 weeks beginning on Monday 7th May 2018.

To ensure everyone has good feedback PLACES ARE LIMITED so book now!

First Week: Monday 7th to Friday 11th May, I send you a daily email with a discussion, tips & hints, examples and a small task.

What could you spark in 10 minutes copySecond Week: You have time to write a short story and send it to me, I will then format (remove emails etc.) and make a document of all the groups writing and send it out.

Third Week: You have a chance to read everyone’s work before we have a text only chat where I will give feedback, and we can all give words of encouragement, talk about what we loved, what we would like to have read more about and why, and so on.

I have specially designed the daily tasks to be done in 10 minutes.  Trust me… you will be amazed what can be achieved in 10 minutes of writing!

You don’t need any previous experience and all writing prompts will ask you to draw from your own life and experiences, so again, no need to be nervous about coming up with epic novel ideas!

Let’s Start Writing

Sign up now to join the Let’s Start Writing Workshop starting Monday 17th September 2018

£20.00

What previous participants have said…

This workshop was exactly what I needed. The beautifully presented, upbeat and thought provoking emails sent every morning were a welcome bit of ‘me time’ after the school run. As a mum of four little ones, finding time to sit down, think and write is challenging but your short 10 minute exercises made it feel achievable and although they only took ten minutes, the ideas, inspiration and techniques will last far longer. I enjoyed it so much that this mum of four with no time on her hands has just signed up to the next stage!

– Emily Taylor

I had been thinking about writing but it can be overwhelming knowing where to start.  By day one I suddenly had an organised list rather than randomly going from one thing to another.  By day two I was able to face that blank page and the words just kept coming.  The freedom of just writing was exciting.  I loved every day of the workshop and was really looking forward to receiving the
emails and discovering my next task. The workshop was clear with guidelines and examples which made it all very easy and the fact that we only needed to give 10 minutes a day made each task very do-able.  I now have a clear plan on what I would like the outcome for my writing to be, and an abundance of lists to work from.

– Lesley Barlow

I loved the course. I am a total novice when it comes to writing and you have given me some really useful tools to get me started. I love a list and a mood board and would have never had thought to use these as a starting point and for inspiration for my writing. Thank you Nicola, through doing this course you have opened up my mind to viewing and approaching writing in a different way.  

– Sarah Bienvenu

The two short courses have been very enjoyable and very therapeutic for me. I was taken on an unexpected journey. You can’t get better than that!  I really enjoyed crafting the final story in the Let’s Start Writing course.  I would like to say a very warm thank you. I will keep a look out for your next set of emails on writing courses.

– Christine Grieves

Let’s Start Writing

Sign up now to join the Let’s Start Writing Workshop starting Monday 17th September 2018

£20.00

A Sunday Six Word Story

Creative Writing, Writing & Blogging

Apologies if you received this earlier in the week – the WordPress app and I were not getting on! 😉

Anyway, as I was saying…

I thought I’d publish a cheeky little six word story! I usually put these on my instagram so of you’d like to see more, follow me over there but for her, here’s today’s Six Word Story and I personally think this truly is a story we should all remember, all the time…

Happy Sunday x

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Connected by Nicola Bourne

Creative Writing

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They say when someone dies that they leave a hole in your heart but I don’t think that’s true.

Instead, they add something to your heart.  It has the shape and weight of a large boulder and its forever in the way.  It makes it hard for your heart to keep working.  Hard to breathe.  I tried explaining that to a woman at work and she told me about someone her friend knew who had a tumour inside their heart the size of a pea.  I think she thought that would help.  Empathizing by sharing a parallel story.  They did both involve hearts.  Maybe the emphasis was lost over text message.

That is why I bought him online.

Read the rest…

Published on www.50GS.com, 14th March 2018