When I was diagnosed, I had no choice but to jump into gear and start fighting my fight. I was presented with options and had to make decisions quickly. Then the routines of treatment started and focusing on pushing through until the next one. I thought all I had to do was get through treatment and then I'd be home-free, that life would go back to how it was before.
That's not quite where I am now.
Before Treatment: Life Was Reliable. That Was Awesome.
Before cancer I had family goals, life goals and dreams. I longed for a family of my own with my husband and was pushing forward to grow my career. Then I was diagnosed and my world was flipped upside down. What was once normal no longer was and what I had once hoped and dreamed for suddenly became a "maybe." What seemed important before cancer no longer seemed to matter.
During Treatment: I Found Comfort In A Reliable Treatment Routine
When I was in chemo, I was at the hospital by 8am, getting vitals taken, seeing the nurse, and then connected to the machine by 9:30am. This was typically followed with a nap from the Benadryl, and then dozing on and off throughout the day. I listened to music, read, chatted with my husband or whomever had joined me that day, had lunch and was typically home by 3pm. I worked throughout my treatment, but I never did while I was in the chemo chair. Some days it was just better to leave that world behind and focus on me. Resting, getting better and fighting off the cancer.
During the three weeks leading to my next treatment, I started to learn when the aches would start, when the shakes would start, when the anxiousness may begin, and then when I would slowly start to feel just a little bit better. Then the cycle started all over again.
Being thrown into something so complicated and finally figuring out the "normal" routine of it gave me some comfort after the six months prior to my diagnosis, which were filled with surgeries and a roller coaster ride of emotions.
After Treatment: Reliability? What's That?
It's been just over a year since my last chemo and you would think that after that long that I would have stopped longing for the normalcy of treatment. But I haven't yet. Please understand, I do not wish to still be in chemo, but I do miss knowing what to expect every few weeks as I headed to chemo and the weeks to follow. Being thrown into something so complicated and finally figuring out the "normal" routine of it gave me some comfort after the six months prior that were filled with surgeries and a roller coaster ride of emotions.
Now, I wait three months for my next blood draw to check my cancer marker; anxious the whole time
, hoping and praying there are no indications that my cancer is back. But in between those checks, I have lost my sense of direction. Some days I don't want to get out of bed
. Some days I am ready to tackle the world. But every day I am thinking: what is next? When people look at me, they see my hair growing back (not fast enough for me), they see that I am starting to resemble the person I was before chemo, but they don't see the agony I go through trying decide every day, what's next? They have no idea that even though I look "normal" to them, I feel anything but "normal."
Sometimes I listen to my playlist from chemo, and it takes me back to a time where I could shut out the rest of the world, crank the music and be lost in the moment focusing on just me…. I personally find it difficult to slow down and do things such as meditate because my mind begins to wonder and I tend to feel overwhelmed, rather than relaxed. I know it would be good for me, but I have so many thoughts running through my mind about work/career, moving on from cancer, my marriage, how we are going to build a family and my next steps in life. I struggle to put cancer behind me, when it seems like everyone else has.
Now here I am…. I have recently been faced with new challenges, but all I want is some normalcy. I want to wake up and not think about cancer or chemo, but I do, every day. I want to figure out what it means to move on from cancer. I am not quite there yet, but I'm working on it.
What's your biggest issue in post-treatment life? Share it in the comments below!
Photo courtesy of Alessandro Di Credico.