Post Cancer Post Traumatic Stress

During my battle with lymphoma, my focus was on wellness. I could not think about anything else but getting well. I didn’t let myself plan for the future or months ahead. I was hyper-focused on enduring chemotherapy, staying away from germs, and getting to my goal. A cancer patient longs for one word: remission. The word carries so much weight with it. Remission means wellness. Remission means life.

What is normal?

I was not prepared for what that word would mean to me. I had waited so long to hear it and when I was told I was in “complete remission” I was dazed. The weighty word hung there. I am well, but I don’t feel any different. I thought I would instantly be back to normal, but I don’t know what normal is anymore. I don’t know how to go back to who I was before cancer. My life will never be the same. Wellness is a journey beyond remission. It is a healing of body and soul that takes time.

When I started my chemo, I looked well from the outside. Then slowly the medicine that would kill my cancer began to take its toll on my appearance. I am worse for wear. I barely have hair. I am pale and my eyes are drawn. One good thing is I lost some weight I had been hanging on to since my kids were born. I look like a cancer patient, but I don’t have cancer.

My world stopped but others moved on

Friends started reaching out when they heard news about my remission. There is an expectation that if I am well I will return to my life immediately. It takes time for the body to recover from chemo. It takes time for the mind to accept all that has occurred. I still have to get my neutrophils back to acceptable levels. I am not quite ready for the world. I will start radiation soon to prevent the return of the lymphoma, but my cancer is gone. The chemo worked.

I am grateful and relieved, yet I feel overwhelmed. I have missed so much hibernating at home. I have missed my roles in the community, events, and games. The lives of those around me, my husband, children, and friends have moved forward without me. While my world stopped, the rest went on. I was fighting my battle with cancer and everything else kept going. Now I am not sure where I fit in.

The challenges of survivorship

There is a sense of responsibility to those who do not survive their battle. The trauma of the cancer journey leaves a survivor with an overwhelming fear of reoccurrence and pressure to live life fully. My heart is full for my second chance at this life, but now I need to figure out how to live it. I will start with the simple things. I will live each day the best I can one at a time.

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