Until Christine had her own experience with cancer, she didn't understand all of the challenges that arise even after cancer treatment ends. Read more to find out how she dealt with the surprise of the post-treatment emotional rollercoaster.
I was an oncology nurse for many years prior to my own cancer diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I had taken care of patients who had battled many forms of cancer, even people who had endured grueling bone marrow transplants. Upon discharge, I would send my patients off with a smile on my face and a celebratory hug. Never did I understand what patients went through post-completion of treatment...until I became one of them.
Crossing the finish line...
When I marched into the chemo room for my eighth and final treatment, I was so happy the day had finally arrived. For seven months I had endured not only the physical turmoil involved with cancer treatment, but, of course, the grief as well. The buckets of tears, bouts of depression and bursts of anxiety had a hold on me. But now I could finally put all that behind me and move on with my life.
Even though it had been seven months, I felt as if I had spent years undergoing the exhausting fight known as the cancer battle. I watched the last remnants of chemo drip from the IV bag into my body. Then my nurse removed the needle from my Port-a-Cath. An overwhelming sense of happiness rushed inside me. As if I had been a marathon runner crossing the finish line, I literally jumped for joy. I had finished my race, the virtual medal of survivor dangling from my neck. Now, I could focus on moving forward.
But a month-and-a-half later, as I sorted through papers on my desk, I came across my treatment plan. As I read the paper, I instantly felt anger rise from deep inside me. It was a reminder of the misery I'd been through. I felt it pulling me back to the past. Rage consumed me and I yelled at the top of my lungs. The roller coaster ride of emotional turmoil started again. Collapsing onto my bed, I sobbed like a baby for twenty minutes. When my cathartic release was over, I was filled with relief. I hugged my knees to my chest. It made no sense why I had these feelings now — I thought I was done with all this. Wasn't I moving on with my life?
Purging out the past...
The dictionary defines purging as, "to cleanse, wash out or clear." I believe the tears were a part of the cancer process – a purging of the cancer experience from my mind, body and soul. Maybe it was my mind, body and soul trying to reorganize the trauma I had been through and push it where it needed to be, in the past. I am thankful for the cleansing I experienced and that I am cancer-free. I'll never forget the life I lived as a cancer patient. It has changed me forever and given me more of a heart and fervor to help others battling the beast.
What has been your experience with trying to put cancer behind you? What emotions have you gone through post-treatment? How do you think the emotions have helped you move on?