Nothing like stating the obvious – Cancer sucks. And just for the record? Cancer treatments suck too. From first diagnosis to now, finally having my final chemotherapy treatment behind me, it has been a long 5.5 months – and we still have about a month and a half left of treatments (radiation this time) and then time to get my body (and brain) back on track to where we were prior to this adventure. It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions and learning, and although some people will suggest its made me a stronger person because of it, I would be lying if I said I was thankful for it.
After my last chemo date, I felt a gigantic sense of relief – and people who have been surrounding and supporting me throughout this journey flooded me with support and congratulatory messages. It felt like I had reached a major milestone, hopefully never making myself comfortable in those green, sterile treatment chairs again. So I was completely taken aback to feel enveloped by a sense of sadness shortly thereafter – I was thrilled to be done this leg of the treatment (did I mention it truly sucked??) so what was going on?
I’ve been focusing so much mental and physical energy on getting through the chemotherapy, that now that I’ve reached that goal, it forces me to focus on other things – like perhaps some things that I didn’t have the energy to concentrate on prior to now.
I feel like a veil of ignorance has been forcefully removed from my eyes and I can no longer pretend I’m immune to diseases and ‘bad stuff’ outside of my control. I’ve been allowed to spend the majority of my life to-date comfortably shrouded in a world of “Not me” – and now, it’s “me”. I will never again be worried about the occurrence of cancer, but will be continually aware of the possibility of its recurrence.
- What if the cancer comes back?
- What if we don’t catch it as quickly next time?
- What if I have to endure these treatments again?
- What if the treatments don’t work?
- What if I spend the rest of my life wondering “what if”?
- What if I don’t?
I recently attended my son’s Remembrance Day celebration at his school and was thrilled to be well enough to be there. I told him I would be there and I was – promises that haven’t always been easy to make or keep lately. So as I watched him sit with his friends and sing their well-rehearsed song, my eyes filled with ‘mom pride’ – but then quickly turned to something even stronger and the ‘game’ began once again.
- What if I never get to go to all of the school assemblies, sporting events, music lessons, and everything else that makes up the fabric of his life?
- What if I have to look into his beautiful brown eyes one day and tell him that all of this chaos over the last half-year has been for nothing and we have to do it all over again?
- What if I’m lucky enough to see it all?
I have an amazing life. I have so much to be thankful for and have gained a new perspective and appreciation for the things that are truly important to me. It has truly been humbling and inspiring to see the number of individuals who have reached out since my diagnosis to make the needs and concerns of my family a priority in their lives.
- What if I’m always seen as ‘that girl who had cancer’?
- What if I’m never able to let these people know what a difference their kindness has made to my life?
- What if the relationships that have been strained because of an inability to face or deal with my diagnosis never return to the places that they were?
- What if I’ve been lucky enough to add even more amazing people to my life?
Although my brain knows that the chemo and all of the physical pains that accompany it is behind me, my body hasn’t caught up yet. All I physically feel is the cumulative effects of 4 months of treatments – but I can’t wait to start feeling better again – and know that the recuperation process will only continue in the right direction with each passing day.
- What if my body never completely feels like my own again?
- What if I’m always forced to live with the residual numbness from the surgery and the pins & needles in and lack of strength in my fingertips from the chemo?
- What if every pain, ache or twinge fills me with worry?
- What if I live a long and healthy life from this point forward?
Here’s what I know for sure – I didn’t choose to get cancer. I didn’t choose the emotional and physical side-effects of both the cancer and the treatments. I don’t get to choose whether the cancer ever comes back again. But here’s what I do have a choice in…
- I choose to define myself as Christy – not as a someone who had cancer; not as a ‘survivor’; just me
- I choose to keep my perspective focused on the things that matter in life, because I know how quickly they can be taken out of our control
- I choose to be forever grateful for the people who truly stepped up and have made this process that much easier – not only for what they have done for and contributed to my family, but particularly for those people who just treated me as “me” and not “me with cancer”
- I choose life – my life - and everthing that comes with it because it truly is a great one.