Wishing you a Speedy Recovery?

Cancer: making time for recovery post-treatment

Isn’t it about time we challenged and moved away from the tyranny of speed, when it comes to healing and recovery?

I’ve long asked myself this question, both in relation to working psychologically with individuals going through cancer, and also during my own recovery from treatment for breast cancer. I find myself frequently pondering on the somewhat unhelpful phrases such as ‘get well soon’ and, ‘wishing you a speedy recovery’, which are so dominant in our culture. Surely it would be more helpful, and forgiving, to say, ‘take your time’, and ‘I wish you a slow, gentle recovery’?

In a profoundly wise, and thought-provoking book, newly published, and entitled Recovery: The Lost Art of Convalescence, Gavin Francis, the GP and author, explores how and why we get better, suggesting that when it comes to illness, “sometimes the end is just the beginning”. I like this quote, which so helpfully suggests that the long journey back to health (however we may define that) can be far more complex and nuanced than we imagine.
In exploring this notion of ‘the end is just the beginning’, Francis describes the many different forms recovery can take, whilst also revealing how little time is made for it. Tellingly, he points to the gaping absence of any reference to the process of recovery, or convalescence, during his 13 years of medical training. Continue reading

Changing sides

A cancer counsellor describes a personal experience of colorectal cancer

As a psychotherapist and part of a specialist team, for many years I have been supporting cancer patients and those close to them face the impact, feelings and challenges that a cancer diagnosis and treatment brings in its wake.

Although I had not had cancer myself, with the exception of a scare in my mid-30s, through my clients I learned how different reactions can be from person to person, and how certain key points often turn out to be the hardest to navigate. Not surprisingly, these are prompted by how you are given the news that you have cancer, coping with the side effects of the treatment, the end of treatment, the challenge of recurrence and the difficult shift to palliative care. In other words, vicariously, I was familiar with the terrain.

However, when over a couple of years, I experienced fatigue, loss of appetite and weight, digestive upsets and feelings of depression, I found perfectly ‘plausible’ explanations – I was just tired, I needed to lose a few pounds, I had become dehydrated as a result of a summer holiday in Spain. In other words, in spite of my background, I was in denial. In addition, I felt embarrassed, as do many similarly affected, and this too acted as a deterrent from seeing my male GP. Continue reading