Jamie Balfour

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Working life after cancer

Working life after cancer

In October 2009 I started to feel rather unwell - but not the same way as before. I couldn't eat properly and I was vomiting a lot of the time. In October 2010, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour - or more a germ cell tumour. 

As a result of the germ cell tumour, my pituitary gland was partially destroyed, which meant my hormones were messed (although they had been like that for about a year and a half by this point). This caused me fatigue and a ton more problems.

To treat the tumour, I was given chemotherapy - which in itself was exhausting. It worked successfully and I was given radiotherapy to destroy the tumour.

However, the side effects of radiotherapy were not obvious at first. I was full of energy and in fact, I noticed improvements in my mood and my concentration. Strangely, I remember being better at certain games that I played before treatment - I mean in the Swat mode in Halo Reach, for instance, I would often get more than half of the team's points. 

But life isn't easy at all when you've had cancer and I'm not just talking about fatigue. The first change in me happened almost two years later, in mid-2012. My mood was changing and I became very depressed very quickly. The worst thing about this depression is that it never leaves you. On the flip side, however, you do get a lot of good days where the depression doesn't have a big impact on you and the way you do that is by being very positive about everything. But depression doesn't work that way, and I will forgive you if you thought it did because I did too before I got depression. Depression often can only be suppressed but it often remains there, much like a computer worm, camouflaged and concealed. 

Back on to fatigue. Treatment particularly leaves you fatigued and in particular, radiotherapy gives you a lot of fatigue after time. I was full of energy for the first six months after treatment but after that, the fatigue really struck me. As well as this, I began to get nightmares every single night - not one day would go by where I didn't wake up very tired, mentally, because of this.

Another area that I suffered was becoming depressed. Depression originally hit me about a year after treatment finished. It comes and goes and it's still with me. But I'm good at coping with it. I'm never depressed for any reason when it does come, which gives me some ammunition to fight back against it and beat it. As well as this, I remember all the good things going on in my life. One of the crucial things about beating depression is to set a target. At the moment my target is to get my house but once that's gone my next target will already be defined as to get into teaching. 

Thirdly, memory difficulties hit me. Perhaps this is related to fatigue or perhaps down to radiotherapy to the head. We'll never know what caused it. My memory difficulties are one of the most irritating side-effects I have from treatment. I've learned to cope but still, it causes me problems over and over again.

I'd like to point out that cancer doesn't stop life from being good. I enjoy life and I'd also like to point out that despite having cognitive issues and so on, I managed to write a beautiful dissertation and obtain a first class honours degree, get into a PhD and received the highest award my university awards. I also work in a skilled job and have lots of good friends and family. So I think I've done pretty well for myself.

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in Life
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