I learned a lot of lessons after being diagnosed with Cancer. The doctors can only give those having been diagnosed with cancer so much support. They have the medical expertise but what about your emotional and physical wellbeing once you leave the hospital? A person diagnosed with cancer, can learn so much about life, very quickly.
The last thing a woman of 35, about to get married and plan a family, would expect, is a cancer diagnosis. After I was diagnosed, when my world was turned on its head, I wrote a list of my experiences of being a cancer survivor.
Your appetite is up and down
A metal taste can develop in the mouth and food doesn’t taste how it used to. Some days you will feel like eating and some you won’t be able to touch food.
Many people survive cancer
Before my cancer diagnosis, I thought cancer was a death sentence. Of course, it can kill you but I have since worked with many wonderful people who have survived and thrived after cancer.
You find out who real cares about you
The people that are there through your cancer diagnosis to ask how you are, listen, and never belittle what you have gone through, are the people who deserve to be with you. When the hospital visits are over and you have time to step back and re-evaluate your life, you will be able to clearly see those who are your real friends and worth making time for, over the course of your life.
You know your body better than anyone
Experiencing symptoms, whether it’s a lump, a persistent cough, or a pain that has continued even when using over the counter medication, it’s important to get it checked out. If you’re not happy with what your doctor is telling you, then get a second opinion. If you feel you need a scan or further testing to get it checked out, then ask your doctor about this. Don’t let symptoms drag on, get them checked out or it could be too late.
Chemo is scary
In my naivety, I had no idea what chemotherapy was, no idea how they administered it and what the side effects could be. I was so scared before getting my first round of chemo, so much that once I entered the room in the hospital, I ran out and cried my eyes out before going back in. Once they started to slowly drip the IV of poison into my arm, I knew it was killing the cancer, but also almost killing me too.
There are short and long term side effects
Because you are still alive, you feel you shouldn’t complain about any of them.
My doctor dismissed my “chemo brain” and suggested it’s over-rated, when we, those having experienced this, know how real it is to live with.
Losing hair can be short term but you can also experience long term hair loss such as very thin and sparing eyebrows. You may experience a loss of bone mass density from chemo and if you’re a woman who is pre-menopausal, it may put you in early menopause so you can experience hot flashes for up to 10 years afterwards.
Radiotherapy can burn and hurt after many sessions and can leave your skin much more dense and thick than it was before.
You get to know your nurses and other patients
Because you are in and out of hospital so much, you tend to build a relationship with the nurses taking care of you, aswell as other cancer patients. It offers great comfort to be able to chat casually to them while receiving treatment and most of all, to be able to laugh with someone going through a similar journey.
You will miss time with your friends and family
You’ll feel your life is on hold when going through treatment, and your friends and family are moving forward. It’s almost like time stands still for you. When you are unable to go out and experience fun with them, realise that this time will pass. You will be back on your feet and living your wonderful life again and sharing your experiences with them.
Cancer will change your life forever
I thought after cancer treatment was finished, that life would go back to how it was before. I was so wrong! So many people had suggested that I would adjust to “the new normal” and I didn’t get what this meant until I was given the time and space to start reflecting on what had happened.
Life can become very different, being a cancer survivor, but in a good way. You will find out who you really are, you will find out whom you want to spend time with and you find out how to love at a much deeper level. Who knew that something so traumatic could have such a positive effect?!
Accept that its’ ok to have some self pity
Having some self pity is ok! After all, you are fighting for your life! As long as you can pick yourself up and move on. You will have days, that you still feel that sense of loss and you cry, and that’s ok. Staying positive and staying strong is what will keep you going.
Nothing will ever prepare you for hearing those words
Hearing the words “I’m sorry but you have cancer” is the hardest thing you will ever hear. I will never forget my reaction and my husband’s reaction. Nothing, absolutely nothing, prepares you for hearing those words, even though you may have an idea it could be cancer, you still hope it’s not. In that few seconds, your life will change forever – it will change everything.
“Why me?”, “why now?” will be some of the questions you will ask yourself and unfortunately nobody has the answer.
I hope this list has helped you in some way, it’s a long and tough journey, but worth taking every step, to ensure you fight and win the battle for your life and become a Survivor!