This week I decided to write a letter to myself a year ago in a bid to reflect on what I've been through. It was actually quite cathartic to write this, but it's also really confronting. I decided to share it, despite my reservations, because we agreed to be honest about our journey. I also think the letter writing concept could be a good tool for someone else struggling to recover from traumatic experiences.
Hello from the other side (I must have called a thousand times - wait, shut up Adele, get out of my head). Seriously though, hello from future you. I often think about future me, I think about making life easier for future me, so it's apt that I'm writing this letter. And yes, Nick, this is why I like to be thorough about things - because it will be easier for future Annamarie. A little time now, a lot less stress later.
Stress, you're probably starting to feel it right about now. While your body is physically healing and you think you're on the right track, what's really happening is that all the emotions and anxiety about what you've been through and subconsciously building up and you're going to break down sometime after Christmas. Right now you're still waiting to be cleared from having treatment for the big C. That scary word that has been haunting you since that awful day you found out about losing the baby. I can tell you you will get cleared. It will take until October and you'll have a scare near the end when your numbers plateau, but you will get there. It won't feel satisfying though, so be prepared. It will constantly haunt you. Every time you feel nauseous (which is a lot of the time by the way) you'll think that it's manifested itself somewhere else and no one has picked it up. You'll resent the Gynecology Oncology team for dismissing you from their service when everyone from other countries in your Molar Pregnancy Support Group has monthly monitoring for at least 3 months after you get their first negative result.
You will continue to be unwell. You will be blindsided by it. More "women's troubles" - cramping, bleeding, irregular periods. That pregnancy and the surgery to remove T.J will continue to wreak havoc with your body for a long time. You will need medication to combat it, even though you won't want to take it. You'll also find that you have some diseased bowel tissue. That'll need to be removed and the recovery will be the worst, seriously, The. Worst. If I could tell you one thing, it's that you can expect the worst agony of your life and you will get very depressed about how long you'll be in pain for. You will be come "chronically unhealed" and need further treatment.
You're also going to continue to have gut problems. Your nausea will continue and you and your gastroenterologist will have no idea how to fix it, though you will try a lot of things. You will have daily medication for reflux but it will not be enough. Your gut issues will be there every day. Your nausea will make you crave foods you shouldn't be eating that will make your gut & bowels worse. It will be a daily struggle and you will gain weight and feel terrible about it.
And on top of your physical challenges you will struggle mentally in a way you have never struggled before. You will have extreme anger for seemingly insignificant reasons, it will consume you, making you feel a physical burning in your abdomen. You will develop anxiety and feel awkward in many situations. You will have to tell yourself to say no to things and start putting yourself first. You will need to find time every day to spend on your mental recovery. But you'll have a lovely psychologist who will help you and support you through it, giving you some awesome coping strategies.
Basically, I want you to know that the next year is going to get harder. I know you thought that the grief you felt after losing T.J and the physical suffering you went through during your pregnancy and in the months after were the hardest things you'd ever been through. You survived that and that's awesome, but now you have to survive your mental health. You have to survive lots of little health issues, all reminders of your pregnancy that will challenge you like you've never been challenged. Together all these things will nearly break you but you will get through it.
My advice is to "just be". To just survive each moment and not expect too much of yourself. And if you can manage it, be nicer to your husband. He will be supporting you when he's having his own physical battles and he'll be struggling mentally too. And try to love yourself just as you are every day. Getting mad at your body doesn't help. Accept your situation, and know that it won't always be this bad and things will go easier for you.
I'm not going to tell you you're so strong and brave, such a coper, because let's be honest, we hate that. So I'll just say this: Look, life isn't going to be the same again. It's going in a different direction now. You just have to deal with where it's going. You need to remember that life is short, and there are more important things to worry about. Let it all go.
Love yourself, be kind to yourself. Love your family and hug your nieces and nephew as much as you can. Tell Sam you love him more than anything any chance you get. Try to find the strength and energy to give Nick the love and attention he needs.
You will survive.
We are a family of 3. This blog is the story of how we almost became 4, why we didn’t, and what we are doing to recover from that experience.