Recreating Life After Illness & Bereavement
Dee's SELF Journal has helped her recreate her life after illness and bereavement.
I used to be a research scientist.
It was all I ever wanted to be. And after three degrees and a PhD, I was deep into my dream job as a protein engineer trying to find the marker for cirrhosis.
Then I was diagnosed with cancer.
I needed a double mastectomy, as well as some lymph nodes, removed and as a result of the chemotherapy, I was left with permanent chemo brain.
This means my brain doesn’t work in the way it did before my treatment. For example, I can't multitask and I now struggle to do things I used to take for granted. So science is now out for me and I've been busy adjusting.
During these challenging times, my partner Iain was my rock. Iain reminded me of the things I needed to do and helped life carry on. But then he got cancer too and died on Boxing Day in 2015.
Life is very different now. But you can't stay in a corner forever.
I bought my first SELF Journal before Iain passed away. It dawned on me I'd have nothing when he was gone. I knew I needed something to keep everything together. I found if I have procedures in place and I have things I can follow, then I can get through the day.
My SELF Journal is the thing that keeps me together.
Iain was always very blunt. He'd say to me, "You're not dumb, but you’re not smart anymore. What else can you do?” After Iain died, I used my SELF Journal to help me figure out what I needed to do and what I could do. I have a hard time setting goals now. It's not that I'm not ambitious, it's just I need to be reminded of what things I need to do.
But after losing my caregivers allowance, the priority was to find a job to pay the bills so that's where I started. I was a little nervous because I hadn't worked since I had cancer, but the three-month chunks helped. It made things feel less overwhelming.
Right now I'm working in the sportswear section of a local gym. I'm on minimum wage so it's a start, but I'd like to be able to earn more. You see, there's chocolate out there to eat! There are so many great things out in the world and there is so much I want to do and see.
The great thing about cancer is I have nothing to fear anymore. I want to ride roller coasters and cross glass walkways in China. I'm on borrowed time. I shouldn't be here! So I'm going to enjoy every day as much as I can.
So I'm currently studying shiatsu massage. My grandmother was a healer in a way and so is my sister. With this skill, I'll be able to set up my own business as a mobile therapist. I'll have more earning potential, which means more time to explore.
My whole life is in my SELF Journal.
I think the SELF Journal is tremendous. For me, it's a life tool that allows me to relax a little more. It's such an asset. I'm not sure I’d be doing so well if I didn't have it. It's with me all the time. In fact, I can't do without it! For example, when I'm confused or panicky, I simply look in the book and I know exactly what I need to do each day. I know where my brain doesn't work so good; the book does – so I no longer have to stress about the little things. Instead, I can enjoy my life.
I just received my new journal yesterday and I've started working on my new goals. When I feel down, I look at the previous journals and I can see how far I've come. I miss my Iain so much, but having the journal is like him being here to remind me of things to plan and do.