Sunday, 15 March 2015

Forgetting about cancer

Author: Anonymous

I think about cancer all the time, will this ever go away? If my treatment has worked successfully, like my breast care nurse says it has, then there isn't any cancer in my body anymore. It's gone away. In which case my body is starting to forget all about it. It does look that way. My hair is growing back, my eyelashes are growing back, my eyebrows are growing back. My mouth isn't sore any more, my nose doesn't run, my eyes don't stream. My body is moving on. But my mind hasn't forgotten. Cancer is still in my mind all the time. I might as well be riddled with it.

Do you ever manage to forget about cancer once you've had it? Can you ever go a whole day without thinking about it? Carefree, or distracted enough by normal day to day jobs and worries and tasks that you don't even have time to think about cancer. Or do thoughts of cancer always trump everything else?

If you make yourself not think about cancer are you burying your feelings? Blocking things out that will niggle in your subconscious anyway and cause you bother down the line. Or worse, if you make yourself not think about cancer are you tempting fate? What about the reminders of cancer around your house, like headscarves, anti-sickness tablets, all those leaflets you get from the hospital. Do you put them away in a cupboard out of sight? Or get rid of them all together - which just seems like an invitation for the cancer to come straight back and teach you a lesson for being so complacent.

How do you find the right balance between acknowledging that cancer has been a part of your life, and using that to make the most of your life because you don't know what might happen in the future, and forgetting about it enough that it doesn't spoil time you have that as far as anyone can tell is "cancer free"?

No-one gives you the answers to these questions. When you have chemo there's a 24 hour chemo line. You have to phone it if the slightest thing happens. Sore throat - call the chemo line for advice and instruction. Sore fingers - call the chemo line for advice and instruction. Sickness - call the chemo line for advice and instruction.

When you have surgery you are under the care of doctors and nurses. They check your wounds, change your dressings, check your body for bed sores, give you painkillers. When you're sent home from hospital it's with a bag of medications, lots of instructions, and a series of appointments to come back for checks - plus a phone number to call in between times with questions or concerns. They tell you exactly what to do and when.

When you have radiotherapy you are checked by hospital staff every single day. Sore skin - you tell them, and they advise. Again, you're given clear instructions about what to do. How warm to have the water in the shower, what kind of clothes to wear, what you can put on your skin. Follow the instructions and you'll be ok.

But when it comes to your mind, and the way thoughts of cancer infiltrate your mind - there is no 24 hour phone line, no ongoing check up appointments, no clear instructions about what you should do and when in order to get better.

So I'm not even sure whether the question is how do you forget about cancer, or, should you forget about cancer?

1 comment:

  1. This is something many people wonder about. I find survivorship to be more difficult than the treatments. Personally, I've accepted I cannot forget about cancer because accepting that reality is an aspect of survivorship, in my case. I believe as days go by, it will get better but cancer will always be part of my life, not only because I am now aware of what my body can do to me, but because in a way, it "prepares me" for the future. I wouldn't want to forget about it for the simple fact that I refuse to drop the way I did when I heard the words, "you have cancer." This is what they call "the new normal."

    About things you associate with cancer, I suggest you get rid off them. If something in your home reminds you of it, why keep it (unless you are talking about a $1500 TV, which would be expensive to replace)? I saved my wig because I spent a lot of money on it but I keep it in my closet. I never see it. Everything "pink" I refuse to keep around, maybe because the messages associated with it bother me.

    There will be good and bad days. I am a big believer of allowing myself to experience all kinds of emotions: sadness, anger, happiness, etc. When you allow yourself to go through all emotions associated with cancer, you are also allowing yourself yo heal, in a way. When the good days are here, you enjoy them! Try to create something good for yourself but don't force it or let anyone force you to "move on." You will heal at your own pace.

    Another piece of advice, don't be afraid to walk away from situations that make you unhappy. Sometimes those add to the burden and you need to set priorities in your life to make yourself happier.

    At the end of the day, you do what is right for you. You will find your new normal and you will create your own comfort zone. There will be better days ahead. Believe it.

    Good luck.