Being a cancer survivor is a glorious thing. It reminds you how precious life is. It gives you a new understanding on what’s important. There’s nothing easy about having cancer, no matter what your original diagnosis or treatment was. Cancer sticks with you, even when all the treatments have ended. It’s a lingering thought in your mind, no matter how far back you push it.
The last few days have brought thoughts of cancer too swiftly into my brain. The first was a nightmare I had on Thursday night. It was so vivid, being in my own kitchen on the phone, the doctor telling me my cancer had returned. It’s not the first time I’ve had a nightmare with similar circumstances, every time being suddenly woken in a panic, my heart pounding. Then this morning, while cleaning the house, I stumbled upon some items that we had needed after my hysterectomy. Items I had shoved to the back of a cabinet because I just didn’t want to look at them. In my mind I was brought back to that time (almost two and a half years ago) which was filled with anger, fear and despair.
You see, no matter what I do, cancer will always be with me in some way. I’m thankful daily that my body is rid of the cancer that invaded. But cancer leaves an unwanted gift that I’m not sure will ever go away. It’s fear and anxiety that come up at unexpectedly.
For me, some of these times are when…
- I see old photos of myself, about 20 pounds heavier. People are constantly saying how lucky I am to be so skinny, that I don’t have to worry about my weight. But let’s face it, we all have self-confidence issues, no matter what our body type. For me, I hate that I’m so skinny, because the reason I’m underweight is due to how much I lost during cancer.
- I see photos of someone expecting a baby or commercials of newborns. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled when I see friends and family bringing the joy of a child into their lives, but there are certainly times when it hurts. I’d always wanted two or three children. Sure, there’s a definite chance my daughter would be an only child, even if I hadn’t gotten cancer. But having the choice stripped away at the age of 34 sucks.
- My daughter tells me she wishes she had a brother or sister. She doesn’t understand everything that happened back then; she was only a Kindergartner. But this goes along with the children I had always considered having that will no longer be.
I wish I could say that when you finish cancer treatment and move forward in life that your fears dissipate. But from experience, that simply isn’t true. The memories of treatment stick with you, no matter how happy you are to move forward into a new sense of normalcy. What you used to worry about may no longer concern you as much; but your mind now has a new set of fears and anxieties to deal with instead. But, what we can do as survivors, is surround ourselves with things or people that make us happy to help cushion those difficult fears when they occur.