Before I was diagnosed, I had this notion that something like this could NEVER happen to me. I am a good person, I put everyone before me, I have faith in God, I work out, I am healthy, bad things don't happen to good people. Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer will tell you the same thing. Unfortunately, that is not how this all works. I will say the same thing I said when I first started this blog and I do not want this post to take any of that away because I believe it to still be true. I KNOW there is a reason for all of this. I still believe whole heartedly that this happened for a purpose and, in time, I know that purpose will become more clear. For now, I am going to pour my heart out to the world and I hope anyone reading this will take a minute to focus on yourself and let yourself feel whatever emotions you have inside and to not be afraid of what your friends, husband, parents, siblings, or any other family member might feel. You deserve to let it all out, you are allowed to feel everything you are feeling right now. I am allowed to feel everything I feel right now and so here it goes.
Some days, most days, I feel alone. The only time I truly feel like I am in my comfort zone anymore, is when I am speaking with someone who has been in my shoes. Whether that means I am speaking to a mentor, or women from my support group, it seems to be the only time that I feel "understood". The truth is, I am scared. I am sad, some days even depressed. I never thought this would be me. I don't believe that anyone who hasn't had cancer will understand this when I say it. I am happy, I am proud, and I am thankful that I am currently free of cancer. With that being said, just because I am free of cancer, does not mean it has all just disappeared. Some times I feel like the emotions post cancer can be more difficult to understand than the diagnosis itself. In truth, I think its just a completely different aspect of the emotions that come along with all of this. I think as we go through treatment we just look forward to the end. We look forward to the end of chemo, the end of surgeries, the end of radiation, and to hearing those beautiful words..."your pathology report came back, and we received clear margins, you are CANCER FREE". We never forget the date we were diagnosed, and we never will forget the date that we heard those words. But hearing those words doesn't erase that it ever happened.
When you go through something so difficult, so challenging, and so life altering, related to your health...I think its impossible to not fear going through it again. You see, when you haven't been through it, you have no idea what to expect. You are naïve to anything that comes along with it. Its no different than the idea that if you've never been skydiving, then you have no idea what its going to feel like to jump out of that plane. I had no idea what chemo would feel like or what it would do to me. It was pure hell for me. I will not lie. Not only am I scared that I might ever have to endure that type of hell ever again, but if my cancer comes back...it is my understanding that I will automatically be stage 4 and it would then become a chronic disease that I would have to live with for the rest of my life. I don't know about you, but to me, that sounds pretty f'ing scary! I try not to think of it that way. I try to stay positive, enjoy my life, travel, do things I enjoy, and I find myself filling most of my days up with an endless list of nonsense just to get through the day without having a mental breakdown. To most looking in, I am doing quite well with this. Those that are closest to me, know that I am not doing so well with this. I put on a good show, which I am learning is only making this harder on me. I am one tough cookie but this has brought me to a place where I have started to question my own strength. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have been told how strong I am. I am strong because I had no other choice. It was do or die. I chose "do" as most people would.
I believe this portion of my post might be the one paragraph every cancer survivor will want to share with their loved ones. So this is to all of my friends, family, loved ones, and to all of yours as well...
Cancer does NOT just disappear. Just because you see me living my life again, enjoying day to day activities, seeing pictures of me smiling, doesn't mean that is truly what is going on inside of me. Don't disappear on me. Don't leave me. I need your support still. I need hugs, and texts, and emails, and cards, and random messages that you are still there for me. I need you to still ask me if I am doing ok. On my bad days, I might need my space but that doesn't mean I don't need a hug still. On my bad days, I might be a bitch but that doesn't mean I don't love you. It means I am scared. It means that those negative thoughts have gotten the best of me on that day and I am doing my best to cope with them. When you see that look of sadness in my eyes, or if you haven't heard from me in awhile, call me...text me...send me some encouragement. Pray for me. Im not one to ever ask for attention. I don't want the attention because I crave to know that everyone in the world is worried about me. I crave to be reminded that I am loved and that in some small way it is understood that I am not 100% and that it might take awhile for me to get there. Some days I might be 100%, some days I might be at 50%. Don't disappear on me. If I ask anything from anyone, I will ask this. Be patient with me. I am learning to be patient with myself and teaching myself that it will take time to learn how to live this new life I have ahead of me. I am learning to live without fear and this is a daily challenge for me. I cannot find patience within myself if you cannot be patient with me as well. We (cancer survivors) still need everyone's love and support even after hearing those beautiful words. Its what continues to pull us through.
As time goes on I know this will get easier. I have to believe and have faith in that statement. When I was going through treatment, it was my protection...my armor...against my cancer spreading. Then I had surgery and it was the end all be all of this cancer being inside of me. I recovered from it all, and I am so fortunate and lucky to feel as great as I do physically but I don't have any of that armor anymore. My body will do whatever its going to do and I have to trust in God that he will protect me from here on out. I fear all of the little pains that come and go and pray to God they will go away on their own. I feel like he is the only one who can protect me now. I can only do so much for myself. I have had to learn how to live life differently. Drinking is horrible for breast cancer survivors and I have found myself trying to learn how to be the one sober person in the room while everyone is turning upside down acting like a total fool. I am doing my best to find new habits, new activities, and new friends who can enjoy those positive and healthy activities with me. I don't ever want to replace those who have been there with me through all of this, but I want them to all understand that I might not be the same person I was a year ago. I am still funny, I am still outgoing, I will still have a dance off with you, I will still give you the worst impression of whatever you ask me to, I will still care for you and love you the same way I did before, I will still be there for you, and I will find a way to live my life in a way that will bring me joy. But please do not turn the other way while I figure this out. Please continue to come on this journey with me and know that deep down I am still the same person I was before cancer tried to bring me down. There are just certain parts about me that may be different but I am going to believe that those certain parts are going to be better than ever before.
I am not going to chalk this pouring of emotions as a weakness on my behalf. Whether you have ever been diagnosed with cancer, or you know someone who has been diagnosed, or you are just having a difficult time in your life, you cannot ever be ashamed of it. I am learning this and I will continue to become better at knowing its okay to feel everything that I feel. I know there are a million other women out there who will agree to the majority of what I have said. I hope you will share your feelings and emotions below. Let this be your own sound off to get it out and share with those who might not really understand what you are going through. Use an anonymous name if you have to. I want EVERYONE to understand how real these feelings are, how random these ups and downs are, and some days are harder than others, but to know that we need your patience, compassion, and love to pull us through it.