After six years of cancer survivorship, never has it been more clear to me that cancer is not just a disease of our physical bodies, but a disease of our minds and souls as well. Therefore, cancer is not just a matter of eradicating the rogue cells from one's body but of curing the entire patient.
To rid a patient of the physical disease, but to ignore the residual emotional and spiritual disease, does not a cure make.
I can personally attest that in these six years after cancer, there's much more that I've had to overcome than a bit of testicular carcinoma. For sure, the chemotherapy did a number on my body -- as a result of which I've had to overcome chronic fatigue from CIPN.
But the physical fallout is the easy part. My anxiety became overwhelming
at times. I constantly feared that my cancer would come back
. Some friends of mine didn't make it
, and on several occasions, I thought for sure that my cancer had returned and that I was next. I fell into depressions several times. I suffered from posttraumatic stress.
This went on for years. Even four years out from cancer, I couldn't stop being afraid.
Irregular hormonal levels for several years didn't help, either. Doctors of testicular cancer patients all seem to believe that because men have two testicles that the other will "pick up the slack" and we'll be able to keep flying along as normal like a twin-engine aircraft.
We survivors know otherwise. We know that it's not necessarily true, that it's not nearly that simple, and that there's actually no evidence out there to support such assumptions because no studies have ever been done! But no -- if our testosterone levels still test in an impossibly wide "normal" range, we're sent packing and are told that we should be just fine. Meanwhile, our moods, energy levels, and mojo can be flailing around all over the skies from 30,000 feet down to treetop level and back again, barely able to stay in the air at times.
While having to contend with so many post-cancer fears, we're also contending with non-compliant bodies and doctors that don't understand our problems. Life after cancer can be cruel and unfair
Loved ones and caregivers suffer right along with us and should not be overlooked anymore, either. Where there is love, there's transference of emotion, anxiety, and cancer as a disease of our minds. Yes, caregivers suffer from the disease called cancer as well, and for them, it tends to be a more silent battle. They need to be strong and be the pillar of support for the ones doing the physical fighting, but they feel the same fears and anxieties that the actual patient does.
Caregivers are fighting cancer as a disease of their minds, too, and deserve equal consideration for care. Don't just ask how the cancer patient is doing - ask how their caregivers are doing as well. It's entirely possible that no one has ever asked, while they're crumbling inside in the same way as the patient.
Survivorship care has come a long way in six years, but there's still much to this fight that's not well understood in medical professional circles, and so the drive to share in our journeys and our many struggles after cancer continues.
What are some "facts" about survivorship that you've found aren't true for you? Share your experience in the comments below
Photo courtesy of James Garcia.
Originally published for the Cancer Knowledge Network