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Life After Cancer

Thursday, February 27, 2020

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.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I don't know if you are familiar with We Are Messengers, a Christian band from Ireland. My husband and I saw them in concert with TobyMac recently. They have a song out called:

    Maybe It's Ok

    If I didn't know what it hurt like to be broken
    Then how would I know what it feels like to be whole
    If I didn't know what it cost like to be rejected
    Then I wouldn't know that Your love coming home
    Maybe it's ok if I'm not ok
    'Cause the One who holds the world is holding onto me
    Maybe it's all right if I'm not all right
    'Cause the One who holds the stars is holding my whole life
    If I didn't know what it look like to be dirty
    Then I wouldn't know what it feels like to be clean
    And if all of my shame hadn't drove me to hide in the shadows
    Then I wouldn't know the beauty of being free
    Maybe it's ok if I'm not ok
    'Cause the One who holds the world is holding onto me
    Maybe it's all right if I'm not all right
    'Cause the One who holds the stars is holding my whole life
    Father, let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done
    Here in my heart as in Heaven
    Father, let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done
    Here in my heart as in Heaven, oh!
    Maybe it's ok if I'm not ok
    'Cause the One who holds the world is holding onto me
    Maybe it's all right if I'm not all right
    'Cause the One who holds the stars is holding my whole life
    Now I'm alive in You
    The best that I deserved
    Now I'm alive and I can see You in everything
    Maybe it's ok if I'm not ok

    Here's a link to the song on youtube. You can copy & paste it to your browser:


    You are going to have good days & bad days. There will be days of wondering, doubt, anger, uncertainty, fear & so many others. But when you get up every morning, just put your day in God's hands & try to let it go. Those hands are the best hands you can be in anyway.

    I'm praying for you, my dear Sister in Christ.
    470 days ago
    Thank you for sharing this. You sound like a very brave person to me. I hope your MRI goes well. I'm having one next week and am taking a tranquilizer before it, as the last few MRI's have made me quite nervous. I hope things settle down for you or it gets easier to take it day by day, test by test. I haven't had cancer, but have had mental illnesses since age 12 and have had times when my feelings were conflicted. I felt I should be grateful that things weren't worse than they were and felt guilty for feelings of grief about my lost time and experiences and just life in general when others might have it worse than me. I love what you said, "Acknowledge the bad, but dwell on the good." Very wise words for us all.
    475 days ago
    What a wise person you are to feel what you're feeling! It's not easy. It's like grieving and celebrating all in one. Grieving the massive changes, celebrating the survival. Prayers wrapping you for peace.

    475 days ago
    Yes, it is okay to be okay and not be okay. That is great advice for anyone & one I need to heed.
    Keeping positive thoughts for your MRI Test. Prayers & hugs
    476 days ago
    Some days I am so overwhelmed by what is on my plate that day that I am afraid if I take the time to acknowledge or feel anything else I won't make it through what is on my plate! I needed to hear/read your blog. Yep, it's ok to feel. I wish you the best and hope your test results are positive! You are a shining star! emoticon
    476 days ago
    emoticon I"m so glad you are using this venue as a way to share, vent, process and pray your way through all these emotions and experiences. I don't think any of us could truly understand what is means to walk in your shoes.

    476 days ago
  • MSHEL7
    I really needed to hear this today, totally on another spectrum, but still a great message. So sorry you have so much to deal with, I hope they have great things to help you and that test results show miracles.
    476 days ago
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