I'm Still Figuring Out How To Handle Life After Cancer
From the moment that I was officially diagnosed with leukemia, I had the next six months planned out for me. That in itself was frustrating and upsetting, as I hated the idea of having six long months planned out for me with an agenda that consisted mostly of hospital stays, chemo, and follow-up appointments. In between my short breaks of hospitalizations, I even planned out what friends were coming to visit, which days I would go out to do something fun, and which days were just to rest. During this time I could not wait for my last cycle of chemo to be over and for my follow up visits to go down from twice a week to once every three months.
When that day finally came - Chemo was over, my last biopsy results came back crystal clear, and I was back at work- I couldn’t help but ask myself, "Well, now what?".
It turned out that as much as I hated having six months planned out for me, things were a lot easier that way. I didn’t have to think much because all of the "thinking" was already planned out for me. Now I was given all of my time back and I was able to spend it however I chose (besides work) and I wasn’t so sure how or where to start.
The first thing I did was set a ton of goals that mostly consisted of going to the gym non-stop because firstly, I wanted to lose the pounds I gained during treatment, and secondly, because I could! Now that I had short hair, I couldn’t use my previous excuse of not going to the gym because it would mess it up. Another goal included spending as much time as possible with friends and family. I wanted to do every single fun thing I could imagine because I felt like I deserved it.
After a little while, I realized that I had subconsciously planned out weeks at a time and filled my calendar with activities. It was almost like when I was diagnosed and had everything planned out, but these were actually fun things. I quickly started to tire myself out from all these activities and at times underestimated how much my body had changed since diagnosed with cancer. Treatment left me more tired than usual and after months of not being as active as I normally was, my body just wasn’t used to so much activity. This was confirmed when I was one of the first people to to leave my own birthday party. My initial goal of trying to do everything and anything I could changed into trying to find a balance- I could do enjoyable things, along with things that I have to do, while also listening to my body and knowing when enough is enough. I realized that before I was (and still am) trying to make up for lost time, but now I see that’s impossible.
My desire to take on the world and do everything possible has now become more reasonable and therefore much more attainable. I try to spend time with family and friends because it’s important to me. They were such great support system during the most difficult time of my life. I try to work out a couple of days of the week to keep my body active. I go to work and look forward to returning back to school in a couple of months because my career and studies is a big part of who I am. I also am trying to plan a little less and live in the moment a little more. That’s difficult for me because I am a planner but life is short and things don’t always go according to plan so it’s important to enjoy the ride. That’s my biggest advice to people that are looking for how to live their life after cancer: ENJOY THE RIDE! Yes, being diagnosed with cancer sucks and I really wish it wouldn’t have happened to me, but it did. I can’t change that but I can live my life so fully that I don’t have to feel like cancer stole something from me.
I am choosing to thrive and not just survive. My leukemia diagnosis has been a big part of my life and it will always be, but it’s not everything my life is about and I try to live out and enjoy the other parts of me as much as possible. My wish for every cancer fighter and survivor is that you can embrace the new you and the new life you have been given; that you can find a balance of who you used to be along with a newfound zest for life that should never be taken for granted.
How did you approach life after diagnosis? Share your story in the comments below!
Photo courtesy of Author.