Wednesday, May 30, 2012

User 's guide to post Cancer fallout

Welcome to my guide to dealing with post cancer emotional fall-out! Fasten your seat belts folks, and get ready for a fun-filled ride full of shits and giggles...Yahooo!!

That, by the way, is complete bitter sarcasm. There won't be very much fun involved in this post I'm afraid. So...if ya can't take the heat I'd suggest getting outta the

Alrighty then. So it's been over a month since my last treatment. The first 2 weeks or so post treatment were complete euphoria. I was so utterly relieved at being done treatment, and the joy of that was all encompassing. But, as all things must, it ended. I was under the mistaken impression that this euphoric experience would be a permanent state and that somehow, through dealing with the disease I had reached some sort of Nirvana. Now I realize that the opposite is actually true. Which is to say that all of the internal and external garbage has only intensified to an insane degree. I will now attempt to outline some of what this entails for me. I do this not to elicit sympathy or fixing advice (as if this can be fixed!!) but to remind folks who have gone through, or are going through traumatic illness, injury, or other types of  random suffering that you are not alone in feeling like a total whacko - and I think this is only temporary (?). At least I reeeeaaalllly hope so! Okay (deep breath) here goes!

Big J's post treatment fall out symptoms include:
  • Super intensified emotions...about almost everything.
  • Extreme sudden intolerance for certain kinds of behaviour in people (this can include chronic dysfunction that has gone on for years, certain banal or superficial conversation, stupid complaining, stupid cliches, and many other things)
  • Extreme anxiety about the future
  • Anger (red, hot!!) at having lost almost a year of my life to cancer, at my body for failing me, at the universe for throwing this pile of shit into my life.
  • Simultaneous desire for change and fear of change.
  • delayed shock
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating (Chemo brain?)
  • Fear of cancer re-occurring (which boils down to - fear of more chemo!)
  • Barrage of existential questions around what constitutes true happiness/the nature of suffering/grief/death and dying/the ultimate meaning of life. (yes - I am totally mentally exhausted in case you were wondering).
  • Difficulty making decisions (this is not a new one)
  • Envy and dislike of people whom I perceive to be happy, well adjusted and problem -free (you know those shiny happy people).
  • A sudden very uncharacteristic desire for security (suburb envy!?!?)
  • A sudden very characteristic desire for independence and adventure. Yes - both of these are happening at the same time. I feel like I have multiple personality disorder!
  • Self imposed pressure to 'make something of my life'...and FAST before it's too late.
Sadly, there are many more bullets I could add to my current list of neurosis. I bet I know what your thinking: "This girl needs to book an appointment with a shrink - STAT!". Have no fear - done and done! Although not technically a shrink,  she might be the worlds best psycho therapist around. With any luck, soon I'll be one of those shiny happy well adjusted people who I currently want to punch in the face! (Just kidding - I don't really believe in well adjusted people - just well-disguised people).

So a quick word or two of advice of you are experiencing any of the above "Big J"  symptoms:
  1. Go see your shrink, counsellor, therapist guru or what-EV and start to unload and get an objective perspective. If your shrink is an asshole who you are not completely comfortable with get a new one. If you think you have it all together and don't need one - enter the real world and get over your perfect ignorant self... You'll do yourself and those you live, work, engage with on a regular basis a huge favour. By the way - no one is well adjusted - or wait....didn't I already go over this?
  2. Get outside. It's deceptively simple, but one hour a day can help shift my perspective pretty drastically. Especially at this time of year.
  3. Okay - I know I said 2 - but this one is paramount and counter intuitive when in a semi-crisis mode: Take it really super duper easy on yourself. Try to think and exist in slow motion. One small movement, thought, gesture, word at a time. I'm admittedly not so good at this one. But really - is anyone in our hyper ADD  productivity and efficiency obsessed culture?? Gawd - its no wonder I'm an f-ing basketcase!!!!
Last thing. The following is like nourishment for my impoverished psyche right now.
"Your pain is the breaking of the shell enclosing your understanding.
      Even as the stone of fruit must break, that it's heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
      And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
      And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
     And you would watch with serenity through the seasons of your grief."
-Kahlil Gibran - from "The Prophet"

Three cheers for serenity.....Good luck compadres,


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. It's probably good that you made that list -- I'm actually really impressed at how acutely you could identify all the different points of malaise instead of (what I like to do), just pretend it's all due to one thing (usually other people and their issues) and then full-barrel blame it on that one thing.

    Actually all those things sound like a completely normal reaction to something traumatic. Like I didn't read this and think, "Whoa, she's losing it" just sounds like the crap that is inside everybody ALL bubbling up in a big way at the same time, and for a good reason. (And yeah, I also don't think anybody is actually well-adjusted.) I hope it passes as swiftly as it came! I'm totally rooting for you.

  3. Whoa. Good luck with all that. Kidding! You summarize in a succinct and poetic manner those larger existential dilemmas we all have to face. It seems that what you have been through has pushed you a bit closer, a bit quicker than everyone else. Since we are on the topic of psychology, three book staples I keep ready at hand are: Man's Search for Meaning (Victor Frankl), Love and Will (Rollo May) and The Courage to Be (Paul Tillich). Thank you for your insight. Like you say, don't put to much pressure on yourself, there's really no where we should be. Ok, take care Julia and peace to you.

  4. Thanks much for the book suggestions....I will definitely check them out. I'm actually reading May's The Courage to Create right now!

  5. Thanks much for the book suggestions....I will definitely check them out. I'm actually reading May's The Courage to Create right now!