Life after cancer is not what you might expect. Life after cancer is messy and confusing at times. In my case, I don't feel the way I think I should feel, and I feel guilty for not feeling as grateful as I should. During cancer, you are racing and struggling and pushing for the finish line, only to realize when you get there, that there is no finish line, at least not for me. I finished my treatment, got my stem cell transplant, and then thought, "what now?" There is no cure, so I just have to sit around and wait for it to come back?
I still felt more exhausted than ever. I was left with many new medical issues due to the enormous amounts of chemo that I had to receive. I now have stage 4 kidney disease. I now had a medical condition called Hemochromatosis. I now have damage to my liver and kidneys, and possibly heart (I am still getting tests to confirm that one). I have more doctors than I can count. I have almost weekly appointments at MD Anderson, even 2 years later. It is hard to move forward when you are still daily dealing with the aftermaths of cancer.
I recently read a blog from another cancer survivor that really resonated with me and helped me deal with my emotions a little better. She talked about how it is ok to give yourself permission to have conflicting emotions. It is ok to be ok, and not be ok. It is ok to be grateful and not grateful. It is ok to have faith and doubts. It is ok to have hope and fear; anxiety and joy; feel happy and sad. You get the idea. I was kind of paralyzed for a while because I could not figure out exactly what I was feeling and why I was feeling the way I was. It wasn't supposed to be like that, right? I should have been the happiest person in the world to have just survived. Why was I feeling this way? What was wrong with me? Aren't all survivors positive and grateful all the time? The answer was "no." Once I gave myself permission to feel what I was actually feeling and not just what I was "supposed" to feel, it gave me some peace, and the guilt went away.
I am still trying to figure out who I am after cancer. I know I am not the same person I was. I am still trying to make sense of it all and that is ok. In fact, I just had a crying session at work because a new test showed up on my appointments chart that I have to do. It's an MRI on my heart tomorrow and I really hate MRIs. They make me extremely anxious and it always takes a few days to recover. Also just found out that I will have to be going in for weekly infusions to treat the Hemochromatosis. They also made an appointment with me with an Ophthalmologist because the infusions can sometimes cause damage to the retina. See what I mean? Ugh! When will it ever end???
Don't get me wrong. I am happy. I am grateful. I am also overwhelmed, but I now know it is ok to feel all of the feelings. It is ok for you, too. Whether you have had cancer or not. We all have our burdens to bear. It is ok to feel the way you do. We just need to not wallow in it. Feel it, acknowledge it, write about it (like I just did), and continue with your life. Be thankful for the blessings that come each day, even if they seem small. I remember one other thing that I did each night to help me get through. I always fell asleep counting my blessings. Some days, it was just that I was still breathing, or that I had no pain that day. Other days, I was thankful I got to see my family or I had a good report from the doctor. No matter how big or how small, focus on your blessings. Acknowledge the bad, but dwell on the good.
I am now feeling much better. Crying session is over and I'm ready to face that MRI tomorrow and be thankful that the technology exists that can help me with whatever I may be dealing with.
One of these days, I'm going to actually get to writing about the diet and health plan I am currently doing, but today, this was on my heart and I have to write what comes to me at the time. Thank you for being there, whoever may read this. Maybe this is what you needed to hear today, too.