BC vs. AD

Human history is chronicled by days, months and years. And going back in time, there is a dividing line from which our calendars today are based. That line, that event, was the birth of Jesus Christ. Ancient years are labeled BC for before Christ. Years after Christ’s birth are labeled AD for the Latin phrase “anno domini” which means “in the year of our Lord”.

For cancer survivors, each of their lives are similarly divided. I’ve heard BC and AD adapted by cancer survivors to mean “Before Cancer” and “After Diagnosis”. I find the adaptation fitting. Once Christ was born, human history was forever changed. Once someone is diagnosed with cancer, their individual history is forever changed.

I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) on 4/15/2017 and immediately underwent six months of chemo. I’m now two years post-chemo and hugely blessed to be in deep remission (minimal residual disease or MRD). I’m far enough past my diagnosis and treatment to know my “new normal.” I’ve been forever changed: physically, mentally, and spiritually. What follows are some of the ways I’ve changed:

Physical changes after cancer

Taste changes

Okay, this first one is weird, but food tastes different now. Some things I used to love BC, like Diet Dr. Pepper, don’t taste good to me at all AD. And other things I was never crazy about before I find myself craving all the time! I thought this would fade after chemo, but so far it hasn’t one bit.

Chronic cough

BC I would only cough if I was really sick and that was rare. AD I cough every day. Some days it’s minimal, but other days I find myself fighting off coughing fits. I’ve seen all the doctors about this and tried all the things. Nothing has worked. At this point, I think I just have a new cough sensitivity.

Fatigue

This seems all-too-common for cancer survivors. The energy I have AD has never returned to BC levels.

Mental changes after cancer

Chemo fog

BC, I considered myself very intelligent and sharp. I’m a software developer by trade so I’m used to tackling mental challenges daily. AD, I’ve struggled with focus and clarity. I’ve even had my brain scanned to see if something else neurological was going on, but nope; I’m chocking this up to another new normal.

Finances

I hate to admit, but BC, I was always lackadaisical in my finances. I just didn’t focus on them too much. AD, I’m closely monitoring my retirement progress, updating a net worth statement monthly, paying down debt, and looking for opportunities to do more to secure myself and my family. This one flies in direct contrast to my next BC/AD change.

Bias toward the now

My BC self was really good about delaying gratification. I’ve done that for so long that it is natural for me. Yet, my AD self knows life is short and my future uncertain. As a result, I’m learning to be biased toward the now; not putting things off, taking every opportunity, doing less grown-upping and more kidding around. As an example, after I rang the bell for my last chemo treatment and went to a celebratory lunch with my family, I immediately went out and bought my first new vehicle at age 49.

Spiritual changes after cancer

Advocacy work

One of the good things about being a cancer survivor is being able to relate so well with fellow survivors. I’ve enjoyed advocating on Blood-Cancer.com via articles and moderation. I started an Instagram account, @rusty_vs_cll, initially just to tell my CLL fight story, but it has turned into an avenue where I’ve given and received help. But in-person is my favorite way to advocate. I had a college friend who, after being diagnosed, came to visit me for a weekend because of the old and new bonds we shared. Just yesterday, I sat with a young lady family friend fighting bone cancer and traded stories and encouragement. And over Thanksgiving, I visited a childhood friend’s mom who I haven’t seen in decades but has CLL like me. In all those interactions, I’ve felt my spirit lifted.

Gratitude

I’m just more grateful now. It’s not like I was an entitled jerk BC, but my AD perspective is so much better now.

Sensitivity

So yeah, I’m a big, loud, opinionated, muscular guy so this is kind of hard to admit, but I’m way more sensitive AD than I was BC. Things just get to me more. I feel for others more. I’m kind of embarrassed at how ambivalent I used to be toward the suffering of others. I considered myself to be a very caring person BC, but I wasn’t nearly as caring as I am now AD.

What are your biggest BC to AD changes?

As you read this, I’m sure most of you thought of some of your own BC to AD changes. I’d love to hear about them! We survivors and care-givers have so much in common; more than we sometimes realize. So what BC/AD changes do we have in common? Share in the comments below!

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