I’d love to say that once you’ve had cancer, you get a renewed vision of the world where you always bask in the sunlight, take in all the precious moments that happen before you, and stop stressing about the little things in life, but it doesn’t exactly work that way.
Cancer survivors are human; that means it’s not all rainbows, sunshine, and butterflies everyday—despite the fact we are grateful we are still here.
But the truth is I have days where I feel completely sad, lost, unconnected, and alone for no particular reason. It doesn’t help that I’m struggling with chronic GVHD of the muscles, which causes me a lot of pain and edema. Not only am I having difficulty getting up from the toilet, struggling to stand up from the ground, unable hold Bex, the other night put the cherry on top of my this crappy “new normal” life when I couldn’t get out of the tub. Klay had to help me up, of course.
I’m on a lot of prednisone–a stupid steroid–which makes me want to eat like crazy and the fat accumulates in the places I need it less—my stomach, chin, and back of my neck. I look like a camel or the humpback of Notre Dame.
I look terrible and I’m physically (and emotionally) uncomfortable all the time and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
I didn’t think “surviving” would be the hard part of this whole “cancer journey.” But it’s stripped me of my self-esteem. My hair didn’t come back like it was and it’s so thin and awful looking. The GVHD has done so much damage to my body on the inside and outside, and I struggle in all aspects of life because of that.
As a survivor, I do feel guilty for not being happy all the time. I’ve persevered through the nightmare of cancer while some didn’t, and I don’t know why I lived and others died. Why did I go into remission so quickly and others never even get the chance? Why did I live only to suffer worse than I did in treatment?
The whirlwind of emotions a survivor feels is very tough to explain. I’ve lost friends and fellow cancer warriors to cancer. And I’ve even lost myself to cancer.
I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore.
It’s the silent pains that hurt the most like the pain of losing the life I once had. With just three words—acute myeloid leukemia—my life as I knew it was gone. That one moment, one sentence changed my world forever.
And with that comes the what if’s. What if I didn’t get cancer, would I be professionally successful? Would I be a better mother and wife? What if I had died? Would it be better for my loved ones to live on without having to deal with this crazy hormonal, depressed woman? Is my family better off without me?
I’m not doing anything purposeful with my life. I want to be successful. I want to be something besides a wife and mother—and even at that, I feel like I’m doing a horrible job.
Klay does everything for us. He cooks, he plays with the kids, he does laundry—and I watch the kids during the day with barely enough energy to stand and a make breakfast (and by that I mean cereal, pop tarts, or powdered donuts).
I’m drowning in guilt most days. Why do I spend days wanting to just throw the covers over my head and waste the day away? I have no cancer in my system and I still have air in my lungs, what’s the damn problem? Why do I have days where I’m so miserable?
I should be wanting to do everything I can do because I’ve been given a second shot, right?
I look around the house and think “I need to do this or that” and then I just don’t.
I look at my blog and I want it to grow but I’m just not seeing the readership shares and likes that I did when I had cancer. I’m guessing my story is a little less dramatic now, so it may be less interesting to folks. I get it.
All of these thoughts cycle through my head on the bad days. In the past, the dark days were scary and overwhelming, but they aren’t like that anymore (read the post about why I wanted to kill myself here). I know that I will see the light again and things will be better in the days ahead. It just takes time.
But I feel like shit because I’m not spinning in circles outside like the happiest girl in the world.
I once read somewhere that “cancer is ‘past tense’ for friends and family, yet it’s not that way for the survivor.” We don’t get that option of sweeping it under the rug or pretending it vanishes like a suave magic trick.
It’s like tar or quicksand, it just sticks to you and the more you fight it the more you are overcome by it all.
Then when you think you have the whole survivorship thing down, new pains surface. It’s so hard seeing a story about someone recently diagnosed, or passing away, especially kids. It breaks my heart and survivor’s guilt emerges.
I have learned some things about dealing with the pain that cancer causes us. Despite wanting to curl up into a ball and let the world keep moving around you, it’s good to share your feelings with those who will listen—support groups, therapists, friends, and loved ones, fellow cancer survivors or cancer communities. It will help alleviate some of the pain.
So, find someone to talk to. You’re not alone in feeling this way—you’re not.
If you can’t find someone to talk to, email me at email@example.com.
I’d love to help you any way possible.
Keep taking it one day at a time,