12 hour shifts, day shifts, night shifts, endless hours on the laptop when I got home. This was my life. I loved it. Now I sit staring at the same 4 walls day in day out wishing I could be normal again.
As many of you know I’ve always worked in the Health Care Profession. Visiting houses (district care), working in a Care Home, then finally I got a job at Airedale General Hospital where I was a Band 2-HCSW (Health Care Support Worker) on the Acute Admissions Unit, it was hectic but I wouldn’t have changed my job for the world.
After applying for University straight away after leaving college I applied straight for Midwifery, I unfortunately didn’t make it. But back then as a young 17 nearly 18 year old General Nursing didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to specialise straight away and after missing out on the 18 month top up course to specialise as a Midwife I didn’t fancy going to University for 7 years instead of 4 years and 5 months, so I decided to take a year out which I guess turned into 3.. nearly 4 now. I kick myself because I would have been qualified now.
I thought my chances of becoming a Nurse were over until 30th April 2018.
I applied for the Band 4 – Trainee Nurse Associate role where you attend University one day a week and the rest is practical. Working on a base ward and attending 3 week block placements 3 times a year.. may I add still getting paid, winner. I loved it, I moved from the Acute Assessment Unit, to work on a Female Surgical Ward, completely different but I was starting to really take to the ward and enjoyed doing something that was a challenge. That was of course until May came around and I fell ill and unfortunately I had to stop going to work due to me having no energy and basically going back and forth to the hospital for test every day. Never In a million years did I think I’d be off for this long, it’s been 6 months?! And I’ve still a long way to go.
Life is so different now…
Cancer changes the simplest things, things you wouldn’t even think would have to change. Certain foods can you believe it?! I remember being handed a booklet when I first got my diagnosis and thinking ‘how in the world does what I eat affect my body?’ You’d be surprised. Here are few foods I’m banned from eating for example; shell fish and I LOVE prawns, runny eggs (god I miss boiled runny eggs and toast), simple sausage rolls from Oddies, I’m not allowed any form of food from the deli counter, everything must be vacuumed packed. It’s quite depressing really. And the cravings are insane. I don’t think I’ve stopped eating humus? Who even craves humus.
Warmed up food is a no go!! My poor mum has to cook every meal we have from fresh and by god she is doing a great job. She’d give Gordon Ramsey a run for his money in the kitchen, I’ll tell you that now.
I came to the realisation it’s like a pregnancy diet after speaking to my good friend Chrystal as she was pregnant at the time. I think we moaned for a good hour over the fact we both couldn’t eat prawns, we adore love them.
Although the thing that was significantly different was I don’t have the joys of the baby at the end. I guess I’ll be left with the constant worry, has my cancer come back? Will it come back? But I’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it. I’ve a great counsellor to help me deal with these issues.
Weekends have also changed. I’ve notice that me and Connor used to eat out.. ALOT. Once that’s taken away from you, you begin to notice. I’m not allowed in busy places due to infection risk. And it’s not worth the risk eating takeaways and meals out at the minute. You never know what’s going on in that kitchen, is your food freshly made? Or just warmed up? Has the cook preparing your food just sneezed or been to the toilet and not washed their hands… EW. The thought of it now makes me sick. How times have changed!
However Fish and Chips is the one and only takeaway I am allowed, can I get a WOOP WOOP?! How kind are they letting you have one takeaway?! This is only because it is cooked from fresh in front of you, that is once you tell them you’re on chemotherapy. Although I don’t think I’ll eat another Fish and Chips after this, they say chemotherapy can make you hate certain foods once you’ve finished and trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of Fish and Chips!
As I’ve previously mentioned I’ve always been a skinny one. But before I fell ill I managed to get my weight to 8.5 stone which for me was a lot and I actually looked a ‘healthy weight’. I dropped to below 7.5 stone when I was admitted to St James Hospital. It was very noticeable. Losing this much weight I had to change my clothing style which has also probably affected me the most. Now I’ve learnt to deal with it but at first every time I got dressed up to go to out I had a meltdown, I didn’t look like me at all. I couldn’t stand it. I felt thin, I looked Ill and instantly just wanted to put my pjs back on, sit in a dark room just so I didn’t have to go out and socialise with people because I didn’t feel like me. This is when I would have a hard word with myself, ‘why are you letting it win I would question myself?’ So to cheer myself up, I online shopped like you wouldn’t believe. I had a million spare coat-hangers and they needed filling and I guess it made me feel better. Win, win really.
On a more positive note I do go out and do things now but obviously they are limited. I tend to go to Asda and Next that’s a big and exciting day for me on my better weeks. I practically live in my Grandads recliner chair on a day to day basis (he used to be very protective over it but now he calls it my chair), I go up to my Grandma and Grandads nearly every day of the week for a change of 4 walls and happily sit and watch my Grandma all day, she cleans, she irons, she cooks, she just doesn’t stop… I could do with some of her energy.
I’ve just recently celebrated my 22nd birthday, it was very different this year BUT I still had a party, boy do the Rimmer’s know how to party, and it was so special, a week of celebrations with the people I love the most. Everyone who attended had to be 100% fitness no cold or sniffles. All my closest family and friends were there. I had my make-up done and for one night I felt like the old Ashleigh was back. It was quite overwhelming. It made me realise how a life threatening illness has shown the strengths of some of my friendships and the support from my family, friends, everyone in fact is phenomenal.. it’s what keeps me fighting.
You learn to live with cancer, yes your life changes dramatically but you learn to deal with it, it’s only for a period of time (people keep reminding me). Hopefully soon I’ll be back to eating at my favourite restaurant-Jade Palace, ordering a take away (me and Connor have made a promise though only one a week) and eating countless sausage rolls from any deli counter I can find. Doing normal things with friends like a 22 year old should and most importantly getting back to doing my training and helping poorly people back to their baseline which I love to do. And will probably now love more than ever, having been on the receiving end for quite some time.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t take life for granted. Everyone moans about going to work every day, the boring routine and simple things in life, but honestly when that’s taken away from you. You miss the normality more than ever.
Live life to the full. I know I do now.