I was so incredibly under prepared for being a Survivor. There are so many different organizations, support groups, meal trains, and people seeking to help you when you are going through your Cancer fight. I wouldn’t ask to change that in anyway, however; Survivorship is no Cup of Tea. Heck it’s not even something cute like ‘whiskey in a tea cup’. Being a survivor is so hard. Painfully challenging at every turn. Hey look, I’m not unhappy or complaining about being a survivor, but it would have been so nice to have a little more of an idea of what to expect.
I titled this entry “Rainbow of Emotions After Cancer” because I don’t really know how else to explain the wide range of emotions, challenges, and blessings survivorship entails. I’m going to do my best to walk you through this . Following my last Herception Infusion I was now NED (No Evidence of Disease), and not in “active treatment’. Ok! This is fantastic! I made it through the ‘hard part’ and was well on my way to living the rest of my life! The thing is, there are so many miles left in this journey and it is not down hill. Quiet the opposite really. To best describe what I’ve been going through, imagine a helicopter dropping you off in the middle of a very hot jungle, blind folded, alone, with clothes that don’t fit, you’re overwhelmed with anger, sadness, lonliness, depression, your absolutely terrified, can hardly keep your eyes open from exhaustion, and you have not a clue what’s ahead of you.
The helicopter ride is exciting, you’re view above the clouds is so beautiful and the feeling of floating is breathtaking. This is how you feel when you’re no longer in ‘active treatment’. You’re enjoying this helicopter ride to what has to be paradise which is what you anticipate your life will be without all of the pain, sickness, unbearable side effects, and poking and proding. All of the sudden it’s hundreds of degrees everywhere you go, constantly sweating, the hair you’ve worked so hard to grow is dripping in sweat, you have 2 fans at your desk to get through the workday, you now sleep with a fan at all times, feelings of nausea and dizziness constantly follow you around no matter the circumstance because it’s so dang hot. Why? Well, because you’ve been surgically post menopausal since you were 29 years young in order to shut down your bodies hormone production because your Breast Cancer was hormone receptive. No hormones gives you the lowest chance of reoccurance. To top this off, the Tamoxifen you take daily wreaks havoc on your already miserable body. Even more intense hot flashes, night sweats, and bone/joint pain. Yipee!
You push past the heat, and pain and reach to your left and right hoping someone is there with you, anyone at all. The realization that you are on your own, and everyone that was surrounding you on the ride you took to get to the helicopter pad is gone. The thing is, so many people pull together in many ways to try to support you however they can think of or are able to while you fight your fight. There are some that come out of no where, people from your past, others you meet along your journey, those who are there for their own guilt, others who enjoy some of the spotlight they may get from being there with you, your many doctors and nurses, and fellow breast cancer sisters. The thing is, for some reason, when you board that helicopter, there isn’t anyone who wants to take the trip with you. I’m not sure if this is lack of knowledge, boredom, busy schedules, or maybe the journey they thought they signed up for wasn’t suppose to be this long. No matter the reason, you are so lonely. Stumbling through the hot jungle alone with your thoughts is enough to quiet possibly drive you crazy. There are so many voices you can’t seem to shut off yet the silence is so uncomfortable it’s painful. You can’t help but feel so angry and sad that there is no one on this trip through this jungle with you. Wait! All of the sudden a phone drops out of the sky and you hear someone on the other end of the phone say something to the effect of “i don’t understand why you are in the jungle. I thought you were on a beautiful helicopter ride and back to normal”? The tears start to uncontrollably run through your blindfold as you realize you will never have your normal back and this blindfolded lonely hot jungle is all you have left.
Is it nap time yet? Keeping your eyes open throughout any day has proven to be it’s own challenge. Why are you so stinking tired? I’ll answer that for you. Your body is absolutely run down. All of your cells are trying to repairs themselves from the literal hell you put them through with Chemo, Radiation, and more surgeries than you can count. Give your body a little Grace and space to rebuild and repair. What do you mean you can’t give your body a break? Working so hard everyday to pay off the debt you’ve been gifted from your stacks of medical bills need paid off, your growing kids want to play, your beyond amazing husband wants to spend time with you (not sleeping), the house needs cleaned, the books you love need read, the groceries need bought, you don’t want to let anyone down because its not their fault you got cancer, and the 2 hours a day you drive is so worth the heaven you get to call home. Rest when you can. Nap when you can, go to bed early, and take care of yourself.
You pick each foot up and put one in front of the other because you have to keep going. There is a reason you are in this jungle, there has to be a reason. For some reason each step not only hurts your body as pain has been gifted to you to carry with you no matter where you go, but some of the clothes you have on are falling off, some are so tight you can barely move. This strange body you have is much heavier than you’ve ever known (thanks menopause!), and the clothes you have aren’t really made for a woman with a very painful, concaved chest. Let me tell you how exciting it is to push through the pain you feel when you get dressed in clothes that don’t flatter your body in anyway. But let’s be real, is there a clothes line out there that exists for a funky figure like this? The answer is No. (Someone very talented feel free to create a flattering clothes line for women like me!) After you push through the physical pain and wipe your tears, you stand in front of the mirror and you can’t help but smile. As funky as your body is, how awkward you look standing in the clothes you have on, you smile because you are so uniquely beautiful! Your scars are breathtaking, they show your fight, your strength, and you can see that beneath those scars your inner beauty is shining. The thing is, you feel all of these things everyday. It can be exhausting to feel so many ranges of emotions everyday. I mean come on, I often work through every emotion in the rainbow in any given day! The best part though? Wow I have fought for this funky body, and I rock my awkward wardrobe because I am so proud of the me I am!
Back to the jungle. When you are blindfolded and you don’t know where you are and you’re trying to make your way forward, some of the biggest emotions of that rainbow you feel are fear, depression, anger, and overwhelming happiness. You are so angry that you are in this damn jungle you can’t stand it. You just want to know and understand why you are here and what you did to deserve this. You’re so depressed at all you’ve lost and how long your journey is going to be. The thought that you may go back to active treatment and receive another diagnosis all over again, or you somehow don’t find your way through this jungle is terrifying. Every little thing you feel in your body panics you into a hole you can’t seem to escape. But the best feeling? Overwhelming happiness. You are so happy to be in this miserable jungle, alone, hot, lost, afraid, in clothes that don’t fit, because You. Are. Alive! Not only are you alive, you are tougher than you could have ever imagined being, thankful for the little things, and so uniquely you.
Before you know it, a cool breeze comes along and its not so hot, your blind fold blows off, you embrace your rainbow of emotions, and you become a guide for others who are dropped off at the same helicopter pad. You revel in this new body, your unique beauty, the ability to feel so much, the many naps you take, the small circle of truly amazing people who are by your side, the fact that you’re never cold, not being lost in a crowd, and getting to live each day full of thanks.