Today is National Cancer Survivors Day!
In April, I had another mammogram, another “clear” mammogram, which declared me cancer free for the fourth year in a row. I do not, and will never, take negative results from a mammogram for granted.
I find it difficult to balance my gratefulness to still be a living, breathing member of the human race, and the sadness, and if I’m honest, guilt, that I feel for still being a living, breathing member of the human race when so many cancer warriors don’t get the opportunity. Even before I had cancer myself, I lost family and friends to cancer, and even now, through every diagnosis someone receives, and some losses and funerals of people way too young to not be living, breathing members of the human race.
The renewed life I’ve been granted is not without its challenges. I still loathe Tamoxifen and all the things it does to my body while preventing cancer’s return. I’m disappointed in all the doctors that refuse to acknowledge the side effects I’m having and trying to deal with outside of the medical world – their only concern is that I’m alive, not with the quality of my life. That does not mean I am not allowing Tamoxifen to rule my life, it only means that I’m living with Tamoxifen and dealing with the side effects on my own.
The biggest problem I’ve had is joint pain and the need to detox my body constantly. I’ve also stopped losing weight and have gained 10 pounds back from the original 50 I lost – something that my weight loss doctor would like to crucify me for. I wholeheartedly disagree with him on all points because I am doing everything I’m supposed to be doing within my ability right now. He refuses to acknowledge any part of my life or the things I am doing outside of his office. He also tries to act as if he’s an expert on cancer survivors and all the meds I’m on that clearly state weight gain is an issue. I’d like to slap him because he is overweight, but he can be happy about it, yet I cannot be happy that I’ve kept off 40 pounds for two years. His reverse psycho-sorcery doesn’t work on me and I know it frustrates him. I’m frustrated enough for the both of us.
Since I’ve been detoxing more often, I’m sleeping better, but still not that nourishing sleep I crave. That doesn’t help with the weight loss either. I’m caught in this cause and effect loop that I can’t seem to break, but mark my words, even if it takes YEARS, I will break it.
The one thing I’d like to remind people who haven’t had to deal with chronic illness, pain, fatigue or cancer, is that a cancer survivor’s life never really goes back to “normal” or back to the way their life was before cancer. Life cannot exist as it was before – either physically, mentally, or emotionally. All of our experiences are different – but our common bond is, that though life has been altered forever, we are still living it in our own way, on our new timetable, with our life’s new boundaries.
The best way to honor a cancer survivor is to understand, as much as you can, their new reality and allow them to live it as best they know how. Support them as they try to figure out what works for them so they can live their lives as fully as possible. Acknowledge to yourself that they can no longer live life on your terms or the terms you were comfortable with. It’s not about you.
Hug your cancer survivor today. Remind them that you are so glad they are still with you. Allow them to celebrate however they choose – solemnly, excitedly, prayerfully, boisterously, or with a nap.