So I am writing this post in response to a number of folks who have mentioned to me people they know who are experiencing the after effects of the cancer experience and who, as a result, are feeling overwhelmed and a bit lost. The longer I continue down the post cancer road, the more I am realizing how hard a road it is, and how isolating it can be. So by request - this one is for them.
I was reading an article the other day about post cancer anxiety (if you are in post-cancer or end-of- treatment phase I would highly recommend it). In it a woman describes her experience so succinctly that I was floored at how closely I could relate to her words:
“It was only when treatment ended . . .that the full impact of what had happened hit me. I felt cut adrift. There is an expectation that when you walk out of hospital on that final day of treatment, your cancer story has ended, but the reality is that in many ways your story is only just beginning. . . I passionately believe that more follow-up care is needed to give recognition to the post-treatment phase of cancer survivorship.
It is so absolutely true to my experience that it is only when treatment ends that the real life shit storm truly begins. The story is happening. Now. Whether I like it or not...there is nothing to be done. I either deal with it or I become totally numb, and that (unfortunately) is not an option for me. Some days, especially lately, I wish it were.
I am approximately 4 months post treatment and smack dab in the middle of re-evaluating my life, my desires, my priorities, my work, my dreams, my plans, my relationships etc. It is a serious spiritual, psychological and emotional mine field. I am only now grasping the fact that it is happening mostly due to the experience of having had the disease. It illuminated all the other diseased areas of my life.
Along with the life re-evaluation, I am also (still!) dealing with the fears of re-occurrence, and the possibility of an early death. The good news is, if you happen to also be experiencing this (and losing sleep over it) from what I gather it is extremely common. I take a lot of comfort in that.
So, for me, processing all of this involves a few key things which I am undertaking...step by step.
- Support: I now know that surrounding myself with an accessible and supportive community of people is so key to my full recovery (if, in fact, full recovery exists!). Being with people who know me, can allow me to be fully myself, to fall apart when I need to is probably the most important thing I can do for myself. I am uber blessed to have this. I know not everyone does. (There really are no words for my gratitude for this).
- Solitude: In small, manageable doses. Too much solitude in this situation can equal major melt downs, but the right amount brings a lot of perspective. I struggle with this balance in a big way right now. Its easy to become distracted by any number of things, and lose the ability to hear that good old inner voice of truth. Its coming through though. Slowly but surely.
- New experiences: In my case this means travel, meeting new people, being inspired by different places. Its like cleaning the slate of my life - so to speak.
Anyhoo, I really hope this reaches you folks who are needing some mutual commiseration.
And may your own living road, however treacherous, take you wherever you need to be.