Cancer and the Ways It Changes Your Life

Cancer is a lifelong illness. I know many of us have heard that phrase, or even said it ourselves, but what does it really mean? Does it mean A. cancer never really goes away? Or does it mean B. you are changed forever by having it? Maybe it’s choice C. mentally, you never fully recover from dealing with the stress and trauma of blood cancer. Possible even it’s choice D. it means that you will never be able to escape that moniker, “cancer survivor.” Well, I am here to tell you it’s choice E. All of the above.

All of the above

Yes, it’s the choice we resort to when we really don’t know the answer, “all of the above,” and it starts with the fact that cancer never really goes away. Just like a bad penny it can turn up again at any time.

There is a reason that doctors and oncologists don’t like to use the phrase “cured,” and that’s because it never really is. They use “remission,” or “receded,” or even the clinically-sanitized “essentially metabolically dead.” But they never use the “c” word because, well, I feel like they think we are going to come back and say, “you said I was cured!!” if it ever comes back, even years and years later, instead of just worrying about, you know, the cancer slowly (or quickly) devouring us from the inside.

Changed forever by cancer

Secondly, well, I hate to break this to anyone just diagnosed but yes, you are changed forever by having it. It’s just a fact. Your life is going to be forever changed when you have cancer, even if you have a type of cancer that comes and goes once and that’s it.

Cancer is a heavy lift, and it’s not something that exists in a bubble – it affects everything around you and will shift your place in life forever.

Don’t worry, though, you will find a new normal to live with, as we all do. Will it be the same? No. Will it be awful, also probably “no.”

Mental impact of cancer

Mentally, cancer takes a huge toll. It’s something that doesn’t get talked about enough, but it’s true. It takes such a large toll, in fact, some compare it to PTSD/PTSS. It is jarring, it is life-altering, and it really shows you, for lack of a better term, what you are made of.

That is not to say that you have to be a “plucky cancer warrior” every minute of every day, no sir. However you get through your days, even if you do it by crying and watching lifetime movies, then that’s your way of doing it and damn anyone who calls you out on it.

It’s a mental minefield, cancer, and anything you have to do to keep up those spirits, well, do it and don’t look back.

Is survivor a badge of honor?

“Cancer survivor.” I have flip-flopped on this. At first, I welcomed the tag, as it seemed to be something of a badge of honor. Yes, I survived the dreaded cancer, and I lived to tell the sordid tale! Ha!

The thing is, the more I heard it, the less I liked it because I realized that it was overtaking everything else in my life. Was I a writer still? Yes, but below that, “…and cancer survivor.” Was I an actor? Yes, but the second line said, “and cancer survivor.”

Was I a world-renowned Internet personality with millions of followers and an energy drink line all my own called “Ener-Gee?” Well… no, I was never that unfortunately or had a drink line. But you can bet if I was, my Wikipedia page would say, “and also cancer survivor.” It follows you everywhere when you really just want to be a survivor, or really just a nothing. Just a regular person like before, but that’s not possible any longer.

No longer just a regular person

So, as you can see, the “all of the above” choice is really the correct answer. Cancer changes your life in all the ways I described above. The thing is, it’s not all bad. There is life after “all of the above,” trust me, I know because I’m living it.

Will things ever be the same as before? No. Will they ever be as good as before? Possibly. Having cancer, active or in remission, doesn’t prevent you from having a life, it just makes it a little bit busier. Sure, it takes some time to adjust, but that’s true of any changes in life. You’ll always have it with you, but it won’t always dominate your life. Promise.

Talk soon.

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