Cancer really does your head in

When you have cancer, every little pain or twinge really starts to freak you out. I would generally consider myself a logical, pragmatic person. But cancer has turned me into a bit of a panicky mess.

Before my diagnosis, I never would have worried about the odd back pain, but now I constantly analyse myself. Am I in pain? Where is the pain? Is it my liver? Is it a referred pain from my liver? My spine hurts; I must have bone mets.

It is such a horrid mental battle every day. I wake up and think, “Nice, I’m still here!” but then I also have this voice that says “You’re six weeks into the two months to live prognosis. Not long now, you’ll start to feel very sick.”

It creates this intense pressure to get out there and enjoy every day and I often push myself pretty hard to do stuff when I’d rather be chilling at home with Netflix and the cats.

My openness and willingness to share has meant that everyone now asks, “How are you feeling?” in that knowing way. And when I say that I feel fine, everyone is a little surprised and asks how treatment is going. But the truth is that I physically feel fine, but I’m struggling to prepare myself for my upcoming scan and results. I both desperately want to know and am also terrified to find out if my treatment is working.

I cope remarkably well with my new chemo. I have no nausea and very minimal fatigue, so my brain goes to this place of, “Well if you don’t experience the side effects, it must not be working…” which isn’t logical at all.

I remind myself that the odds are 10%. I replay the exact words of my oncologist, “When it grows this rapidly it just seems to carry on.” I’m trying to prepare myself for the worst.

I can’t control my cancer, so instead I control everything around it: diet, exercise, supplements, skincare regime, hair.

I paid to have my MRI scans sent to me and I’ve played them over and over, pretending to know what I’m looking at. One of my 30-odd tumours seems quite close to the edge of the bottom of my liver, near my spine, so my newly irrational brain tells me that it’s obviously pushed outside the wall of my liver by now and is invading my peritoneal cavity and spine.

Amy Mattingly dressed up for Bowel Cancer UK event

People say to me, “But you look well!” as if to say, “You don’t look like a terminally ill person,” and it’s true. I wear makeup to cover the rash and put plasters over my cracked nails. I dye my hair so that it looks like intentional. It’s easy to forget that I might not be doing so well inside of my body or inside of my mind.

I’ve got another few weeks before I’ll have answers. Or, based on my recent prognosis, until I drop dead…