The Emotional Aftershock of A Cancer Diagnosis

I wrote this short blog expressing my emotions on September 6th while on the way home from the hospital. Every six months I go back in for my routine checkup -- always a significant moment.

The human body has got this intriguing way of reminding us of traumatic events. Perhaps it’s our nature- some residual genetic quirk to protect us from getting traumatized again. Therefore, you either get into fight, flight or freeze mode. Too bad punching the doctor or running away from the hospital isn’t going to help you with cancer. Freezing won’t get you too far either, because at some point you will be wanting to move forward again. I think we all experience a complex mix of those three from time to time. Lately a new strategy has been working for me: I’m trying to embrace trauma and emotions.

For example, today I took an intense trip down memory lane. I've been taking a lot of small trips like this lately, but today I was ready for a bigger one.

There have been many moments where I acted strong and tried to play the hero of this wicked script. However, I must stop lying to myself. I simply can't ignore the fact that my heart rate increases like a maniac and that the capacity of my lungs suddenly feels like half its size, the moment I step into this building.

One voice in my head tells me to run away, as fast as possible. Whilst the other one commands me stay: to go wander through the hallways, through the different quarters and radiotherapy bunkers. (Yes, that's literally what they are called. Bunkers.) Slowly walking around the building gives me the time to come to some realizations. I start to realize that everywhere around me, behind closed and open doors, there are people giving all they got to kick cancers ass. Giving up tons of their healthy cells to live this life. And then: Boom! It hits me. I was (or still am a little?) one of them.

Images flash before my eyes. The intense hours spent between hospital walls. The pity, arrogance and supportiveness in the doctor's eyes. The needles and the bags full of chemicals. The image of being in a wheelchair, too weak to walk; and lying strapped down tight on the radiotherapy table. The countless amount of waiting rooms. Hair on my pillowcase. The first look in the mirror with a bald head.

Above all, there's this immense numbness inside me.

Whilst walking those hallways, it's not only the images that bombard me. It's also the emotions. The emotions I didn't have time or courage for to face back then, when it was all happening:

Fear. Pain. Loneliness. Astonishment. Anger. Sadness. Happiness. Relief. Weakness. Strength. Disbelief. Faith. They all flash through me at the same time. I try to let them all in. They take away my ability to breathe freely. To see clearly. To talk without a shaky voice.

They hit me. But it's okay. I'm ready now. It's not the cancer and the treatments knocking me down this time. It's the emotions that go with them. But it's okay. I'll get back up. Again.

I walk out of the hospital, my head held high, a smile on my face and hand in hand with my Mom. This place really taught me how to dance in the rain and how you need the lows to experience the highs: "My home away from home, that I feel like running away from, but where I keep coming back to."

What's one particular you remembering being hit by the impact of cancer? Tell us in the comments below!

Image courtesy of the author