Wading into the world of "Survivorship" or...What happens when the Cancer is "over"?
“For survivors, there is no life without cancer.”
There’s something that happens, when you finally reveal the “news” that you’re “ in remission” or that for now at least “the Cancer is gone”. Congratulations abound. You can palpably feel the relief of those who have been cheering you on, happy to have their minds focus on something else. “It’s over” they think, so now things, and you, can go back to normal. The light that was shone on you dims, and the warmth of those people seems to fade. Because it’s over, and you are alive. You are fine.
And in that shift, is where some of the deeper loneliness of this journey begins. It’s really no surprise.
When someone is actively being treated for Cancer, we already feel helpless, but it seems there are physical “real things” to be done. Dropping off food, sending flowers, driving to treatment. But when the Cancer is “over” what is really to be done? Aid is no longer obvious, things to be delivered, sent, or presented.
The terrain is familiar to the aftermath of losing a parent (which unfortunately, I am well acquainted). It’s a gradual process of re-finding your footing, of sorting through the avalanche of emotional PTSD that changes daily. (And thanks to chemical menopause, with some additional landmines.) Exercising whatever “mindfulness” you have garnered when you fly into an anxiety attack over something seemingly innocuous.. The sheer panic that arises in the aftershock of a earthquake. The mounting “shoulds” telling you , now that you have been given this respite, where your life and career must be. Wondering if the 8 lbs extra of “insulation” that has surrounded your body through all its trauma, is here for the long haul. And beating yourself up, both for it being there, as well as for caring that it’s there at all, in light of all that has transpired. Accessing daily, now that you have the energy and attention span, what things are now to be left behind.
I’ve been credited so often for my strength in this battle with this disease. But comparatively, the battle has been simple : DO THE THINGS TO BEAT THE CANCER…GET OUT OF THE BURNING BUILDING.
The hard part is what comes now…the after.
Where I like so many people reside, whether it’s from disease, trauma, or tragedy.
And it’s here that will determine my true grit on whether I thrive, or merely survive.