Do you remember the first time you cried after being diagnosed with cancer?
For a very long time, my eyes remained dry. To my surprise, I did not shed a single tear when I was originally diagnosed and had the word "cancer" thrown my way. I barely got emotional when I discovered my scars or saw my new bald self one morning in the mirror. I also did not cry when some friends I counted among my closest started taking their distance. And I did not even cry when my beloved dog Charlie died just a few days before my first chemo round. I really felt completely disassociated from the reality of what was happening to me. It was as if I was floating above myself and that I had blocked off all my emotions as a survival mechanism.
But to be honest, this person I had become, this brave little soldier ready to do everything it takes to get better and to fight relentlessly, was not me. After all, I was a young girl with a lack of confidence, quite sensitive and always optimistic. For the first 30 years of my life, I had lived in La La Land, dreaming big and achieving my goals, little by little without any drama or trauma. But then, my life as I knew it stopped, and for a year, I just obediently followed doctors’ orders, taking only one day at a time, as best as possible, trying to find one thing to look forward to each morning instead of focusing on the many side effects of the treatments.
I was scared, even terrified, but by putting a smile on my face every morning and doing my best to live as normally as possible I managed to keep my spirits up and somehow believed I would win that fight in the end. So, I kept on exercising because it gave me the impression that I was doing something good for my body. I saw my friends as often as I could, even when having fun was the last thing on my mind, because I needed to convince myself that I was still a normal person. I kept on working for my company, on a part time basis, because it allowed me to think that I was still being useful. And I tried not to be upset when people said stupid things or looked at me in a weird way because I realized that I had to live for me and not according to standards imposed by society.
But when this nightmare finally came to an end, my emotional response also surprised me, as I was happy of course but not overjoyed. I had imagined that I would immediately start planning a new future but I was too tired for that and kept taking one day at a time. And then one night, barely a week after I had my port removed, I dreamt of my dog Charlie and the pain became so vivid that I woke up in tears. And for the next few hours, I cried all the tears I had not cried for over a year. I cried for all the pains I had been through, I cried for my dog, I cried for the children I would never have, and I cried for all the other dreams I would no longer be able to achieve. I did not know I had so many tears in me!
And while some of my friends and relatives now see me as some sort of a hero because of what I have been through and how I fought, the truth is that this experience with the big C left me half broken. I am no longer just sensitive, I am now overly sensitive. Despite my best efforts, I still feel very weak and unsafe in this world. If cancer happened to me once, it can happen again and so instead of totally embracing the second chance I have been given, I now unfortunately let my fears and tears take the best out of me too often . But somehow “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
, and every time my mind is swirling with worry, I can still hear this little voice inside my head that reminds me that cancer DOES NOT define me, and if I had a life before cancer, there is still one after, one I have to rebuilt….And that’s pretty exciting!
Do you remember the first time you cried after being diagnosed with cancer? Share your story in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Unsplash