Monday 20 January, 2020

Life after cancer treatment

Lindsy, based in the US, a mother and breast cancer survivor.

A common theme I’ve noticed by talking with many cancer patients and survivors is that life after cancer treatment is challenging in a whole new way. We all mostly ‘move on’ with life, but will never be the same again.

Exhausted, but have a new outlook on life.

Frustrated that it happened to us, but are so grateful that we got through it.

More anxious, but full of so much hope.

Forever scarred, but so much stronger.

And we are extremely aware that this is the only life we have, and all of a sudden, the only thing that matters is making it the best one we can.

I finished chemo and radiation

When I finished chemo and radiation I witnessed all of the people around me feel a huge sense of relief. They were relieved it was over, they were relieved I was ‘cured’ and they were very happy for me. I was a cancer survivor, I was a lucky one.

What surprised me was that at the same time of everyone’s relief, I experienced an incredibly lonely feeling, because I felt like it wasn’t over for me. I had been the subject of so much attention for so long, and received so much support from my family, friends, community and even total strangers  – but all of that attention was decreasing significantly, and I wasn’t quite sure where I belonged anymore.

I was forever changed – because my cancer experience was now playing a part in all aspects of my life. Going back to work, deciding my career path, raising my children, working out, grocery shopping, getting together with family or friends – cancer was there. It intensified a lot of my relationships, and completely minimized others. You realize who is there for you, and at the same time you’re disappointed by others. Cancer changed everything. And at first I was very frustrated by this, because I expected to feel like myself again… go back to normal. I expected to jump back into life where I left off – but I realized this wasn’t going to be a realistic expectation because that life didn’t exist anymore. I wasn’t the same person, my relationships had evolved and my world would never be the same.

Even though there is still a level of uncertainty

Then it hit me. Thank goodness for that! I had been through a lot, and an experience like cancer will really change the way you operate. It’ll change the things you care about and it can change your life in the most positive way – if you’ll let it. I was suddenly looking for more purpose in everything I did, and in all my interactions with others. I wanted to share, and help and spread positivity more than ever.

Even though there is still a level of uncertainty with the future of my health status, I’m actually super proud to be where I am. My prognosis is pretty much as good as it gets, I stopped resisting everything I was feeling, and I accepted my new look and I don’t hide my scars. I am happy to be an open book and hope to make a positive impact in the cancer community, and in the lives of the people around me. It may be a lot to accept, but ultimately we don’t have control over everything that happens to us as we go through life. The one thing we do have control over is how we react to these types of situations, and that will make all the difference.

Lindsy, based in the US, a mother and breast cancer survivor.

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