During treatment I just had to get through it. Shopping therapy was part of getting through it. I told myself, if I get to the other end in one piece, I will have the luxury of paying bills, doing my taxes etc... So now I'm at the other end, and all of a sudden the bills have landed!
So while I'm navel gazing about life, death and everything in between, the inane reality of living has hit home. And it's nice.
Yesterday I tried to go to the cinema but felt really tired after an hour. Harry Potter is way too harrowing for someone who has only been out of hospital for 2.5 weeks. It's only been 2.5 weeks, but it seems so much longer for some reason.
The mind has an amazing way of protecting itself from trauma, or maybe being on steroids and anti anxiety medication has.
A few days ago I had a phone conversation with someone who was the partner of a cancer survivor. I probably should have waited before I had that conversation because she hasn't really worked through the trauma of their journey and is still quite anxious about the future.
I don't know what it's like for the support person because I've only been the sick person. I suppose it is quite scary for them to lose someone they love, but I admit I've not really thought too much about how my partner has been coping because I know of people, especially men, move on after the death of their partners. My anxiety is more around my son - I just can't die on him. I just can't.
I listened to Lance Armstrong's second book last night to calm myself down after having an anxiety attack at the cinema. It's weird because part of me is still me - the one that would have been indignant that the usherette wouldn't let my partner bring in some food from outside for me, but part of me is the post cancer me and I really couldn't care less.
I drew strength from Lance Armstrong after a 21 year old kid I met in hospital told me about Livestrong. I read his biography and his description of chemo (chapter 6) was pretty close to my experience with chemo. The way he dealt with his diagnosis was the way I did.
Imagine the pressure on the guy to survive.
I don't think about relapse. Why should I if my doctors aren't expecting me to? I don't think about the side effects. Each person's different and I believe the human mind and body can regenerate. But I do have to confront my fear of dying. Maybe I've always had that fear but it's been abstract.
I'm beginning to accept that it just happened and even if it didn't just happened and I caused it, there's no point in berating myself because it's happened. I can't turn back the clock.
I'm beginning to understand the idea of losing one's innocence when you get diagnosed young. I know I'm closer in age to my 50 year old friend than my 18 year old friend, but I really feel closer to 18 years old. I've never felt my age. I've always felt a lot younger. But at the same time, I couldn't imagine what getting diagnosed 10 years earlier at 24 years old would be like. I had the luxury of thinking I was invincible for 33 years. It's what young people should feel.
I have another psych visit in the new year. It's less than 2 weeks away. I'm just going to blahhhhhhh blog until then.
I have a great support co-ordinator from the Cancer Council, I might give her a call. And the Cancer Council sponsored a few counselling sessions. The phone counselling was a bit bullshit - I ended up finding out more about the woman on the other end and her daughter's abusive relationships.
I know that I'm grieving the loss of my fertility. I already have my son, but I really thought right now I'd be pregnant and not a cancer survivor, so I have to mourn the loss of that.
The irony is now that I feel completely fucked physically, things couldn't be more positive in my career - something I thought I cared about and wanted to make some leaps and bounds in. Although with the bills I have, maybe it's not such a bad thing that people are calling me again with proposals etc... I just can't be arsed with that aspect of my life, but the longer I survive, the longer I'll have to deal with it because it'll be part of the new normal.
The weather is really bad today. It's grey and raining, but I'm still going to jump into the ocean. I feel less stressed when I go in for a little bit. I really really hate being couped up at home, even though I have a nice home.
It's nice having a place to mind dump. I kept a blog during my cancer treatment to keep people updated, but I just didn't want to be so out there once treatment finished.
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I was raised an atheist but have always wished I could believe in God because it would make life easier. During the cancer ordeal, I had to believe that there was a bigger picture and I had to let go of this control I thought I had over my life.
Getting cancer was like any trauma. At first I didn't feel right using the word trauma but when I thought about it, it was like a serial killer decided to pick me, except the killer was my own immune system.
I'm working through letting go of figuring why I got sick. Whether I could have been happier, healthier, you know all those things they speak of in anti-cancer books.
I know that cancer happens, I had a curable cancer, but now that I'm out the other end I'm in shock.
I've not made sense of my experience yet. I look at survivors further down the track as role models. But I'm not ready to have certain conversations. I was asked recently wasn't I scared that the chemo that made me better made me sicker and I have a shortened life span. If I were religious, I'd say, God has a plan for all of us and works in mysterious ways. If I were hardcore Bhuddist I'd say suffering is the path to nirvana. People think cancer survivors are all enlightened beings. But I'm not, at least not yet. I'm angry at times. My sister in law suggested anger was why I got cancer. She's one of those holier than thou, martyr types...I learnt to stay away from her weird energy during my cancer treatment. The last thing j needed was her concerned but completely clueless support.
So this is how I answer the "aren't you worried the drugs that cured you will kill you?".
No. Because if I didn't get chemo, I'd be dead today.
I was on a very potent regime, but it is a new generation regime. I knew my doctor cares about quality of life in younger patients, so I trusted him. It was tough doing the last cycle since I probably was cancer free by then, but since they thought I needed a stc in the early days and I had prepared for that, I thought of the final round as insurance or mop up.
Of course I'm worried about toxicity, but I had no option. Even if I went back in time I might not have had an option.
In fact, unless someone asks, I try not to think about things that are beyond my control. I figure that no one has 100 per cent certainty they will live or die, until the end. I also have faith that I can regenerate and I try to look at the positives.
Lance Armstrong helps. He regenerated.
The thing is, I have to choose the path to further enlightenment through this shit experience.
My other option is to keep dwelling on the bad shit.
I'm hoping to die of old age in my sleep.
And that's the thing. We are all going to die. It's just that most people my age or older think of it as quite an abstract thing.
My fears are not for myself, but for my son.
That's been the hardest part of it all. He's old enough to understand but not completely.
I realize I can't protect him from everything and I'm so grateful that he is healthy. He has a cold at the moment and I was really anxious. I thought I had a mild cold/flu and it turned out to be cancer. I really have to work through my issues.
Life seems so fragile.
Every day since diagnosis, I've gotten to the end and thought, wow. I'm alive and I made it through.
With an acute awareness of death, comes an acute awareness of life.
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I had a chat with a survivor who was really anxious about secondary cancers etc... Just what has poisoning the body done. Sure she's cured, but at what cost.
Maybe I'll have the luxury to worry about this when I've survived past the 5 year mark as she has.
But from where I am now, I just think well there are increased risks but there's never a 100 per cent certainty. I know I am now a 1 in 50 risk for something. That's 2 percent. And 1 in 300 for something else. My odds of getting NHL were not high and I got it. Lymphoma is more common now but still rare.
Before I got sick, I worried a lot about stuff. Now I really couldn't care less. I don't take risks, but I never really did and I still got cancer. Of course having the propensity to develop cancer again does make me more aware of the so called preventable cancers.
There are kids who get cancer. It seems so unfair. Then we try to reassure ourselves if we expose them to more viruses to give their immune system a work out, maybe they'll be tougher. Then loop back to, but if viruses can cause gene mutations.
What I've learnt is that it's unpredictable. Why do some people die and others live?
I was an atheist, but I'm giving it up to the universe.
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I caught up with a friend who's back in town for Xmas. I know it's only been 3.5 weeks since the last chemo, but I'm feeling really good.
Going to the beach everyday for a quick dip in the ocean has helped. The cold water invigorates me and I get a dose of vitamin d. I'm careful to not spend too much time in the sun as the drugs I've been on make me photosensitive.
I'm going to throw out my ativans/lorazepam. I'm a little too reliant on them. I freaked out today when my kid had a cold be because up until 2 weeks ago, a cold= hospitalization, on ab drip etc... It's a strange space to be in... I'm not quite who I might be when the dust settles, but I'm not me from before.
My baldness is an obvious sign of my recent near death experience.
I'm really changing my idea of who a cancer survivor might be thanks to role models such as Lance Armstrong.
It feels so good to be alive in one's body.
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I had a clear scan 2+ months ago but had to keep going with the regime to kill any microscopic cells. The doctor only told me I have been remission since October at my last clinic. I haven't had an end of treatment scan yet.., it's in another months time. I started to call myself a survivor after treatment. I needed to stay in battle mode during the last three cycles so I could get through treatment. But really, I think I was technically surviving cancer from the day they told me I had it and had a treatment plan.
I'm hoping one day, I won't think of myself as a survivor and that the survivor part is just part of my new normal.
I think the word survivor is empowering. A lot of other life threatening illnesses don't have that collocation.
But at the same time, I'd like to do more than survive at some stage.
Re staying positive. What is "positive"?
I wasn't the world's most positive person before I got sick. I had to make the best of a shitty situation. I had a good prognosis but it's still 6 months of intense chemo that wipes you clean - literally, with the possibility of a bone marrow transplant. There's still that chance.
The fear and anxiety were not sustainable.
Laughing through chemo, finding joy in really inane stuff, made it easier.
I would probably have still made it, but blocking out stuff that got me down meant that I had the physical energy to get through treatment.
I'm waffling, but my answer is- use the word survivor when or if it empowers you.
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I survived the big c but not a rotten fruit.
can't believe I made it through chemo without puking once and today. Woah.
In between puking some DVDs I ordered weeks ago arrived!
Yes have to laugh.
Moderation is the key. I was so gun ho about eating more raw foods, but my gut is really fragile and even healthy ppl can't cope with a raw food diet.
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I ate something bad this morning and puked it up. I know it's just had food but after the last 6 months, this feeling is a little scary.
A friend of mine in the US got through treatment completely stoned. It's been 10 years for him and I often winder whether or not it's better to be high through it all.
I'm still bald. It's only been 2-3 weeks since the last chemo.
I've pretty much distracted myself with bad DVDs ... Or at least they feel bad now that I'm sick... Which is ok.
I know that this is just bad food.
I keep forgetting it's only been 2-3 weeks. I was still in hospital 12 ish days ago.. Or 11
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I haven't spoken to anyone since I finished treatment about much.
I obviously have a lot on my mind or else I wouldn't be here as an anonymous blogger. I'm due to see a CBT psych next week. She's a woman who has an ideal way of being for you to work towards.
I'm at the stage where I'm too tired to live in fear. It's unsustainable.
I've spoken to 2-3 young survivors of lymphoma. One who went through it 10 years ago.
It really helps to meet other young adult survivors. I'm still young medically speaking.
My fear is this: can I beat cancer and be okay physically after my body has been hrough so much. Can I regenerate? Could this indeed be a life changing experience, but a one off?
Last year, I assumed I would be around today. Today, I assumed the universe still wanted me.
Hope is what keeps us going.
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When I was first diagnosed, I didn't know how I'd cope. People said I was really brave, positive and strong. I really had no option but to be. I had to be open to everything including the idea one's frame of mind plays a role in survival.
I took a lot of lorazepams to deal with my anxieties, but I did meditate and force myself to look at what I still had going for me.
The thing is you have to get through it one way or another, and it's best to get through it living like you mean it...curling up and feeling sorry for yourself isn't going to change a thing. Even if being positive only plays 0.5 percent in survival, at least you feel less shitty and it's an extra 0.5 per cent in your side.
I don't know what's happening. Same time last year I didn't know anyone who had cancer. It was something that happened to other people. Now I know 2 people who I didn't meet in hospital who are battling bowel and ovarian.
I have fears. Like what if this means my lifespan has been shortened. Bug the thing is it's just as possible I might live longer because I'm actually aware of my health. Before I thought I wad invincable. I could drink coffee, eat junk, not eat... Get stressed and not eat. Get lazy and not exercise.
I know they said lymphoma just happens. It's causes multifactorial. Some say 21 st century living / or should it be late 20th century living...it's bad luck. I have no idea, but I think feeling sad and weakened didn't help.
Maybe some people can be miserable, eat junk. Drink, do drugs and they are fine. I obviously had the propensity to get cancer.
There's a lot we don't know.
My great grandfather lived to 103. He ate cockroaches.
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Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.