It’s been almost 13 weeks since I heard the news that I was CANCER FREE! In some ways it’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. In other ways, it seems like it was way more than 3 months ago. This week marks a milestone in my journey with cancer. But it’s a bittersweet moment as I consider so many that I know who are still in the midst of their fight with cancer. Or those whose fight is now done and they’ve gone on before us.
When you hear the “C” word in reference to your own situation, there’s an array of emotions that arise….some right away, some over the following days and weeks. Your life has just been turned upside down and the emotions hit like a mack truck.
There is shock that this is happening. Even though cancer seems so prevelant in our society, it’s still a shock when it happens to you.
There is fear that rises. Especially if you’ve known others whose fight with cancer didn’t end with a milestone like this one. And there’s fear in the unknown. There may be fear in the many tests that you face or fear of leaving loved ones behind. The fear often comes when you’re least prepared for it, like in the middle of the night when you’re tired and desperately need sleep but the fear just overwhelms you.
Perhaps anger will accompany the “C” word as you wonder why this had to happen. Anger at the apparent injustice of your situation. Anger can also lead to another emotion….
Powerlessness. Although there are things you can do to fight the battle, there’s also a sense of powerlessness that can come over you as you wait for surgery results or for drugs to kick in or for lab results.
And perhaps the hardest emotions that I personally faced was the loneliness and even some depression that landed on me like a load of bricks. All too often I would hear someone utter the words, “Oh, I understand” when I told them how I was feeling. Sometimes it took all my strength not to respond with cynical questions. I knew they said they understood because often they didn’t know how else to respond. Or perhaps it was their way of sympathizing with my situation. But it often caused me frustration as I longed for someone who truly did understand and could help me process what I was feeling and thinking.
There’s so much more I could reflect on, but for now I just want to end with this. If you know someone in the midst of their fight with cancer, wrap your arms around them and say, “I love you.” Just be there with them. One of the best gifts I received was simply the presence of people. Even if I didn’t want to talk, just to have another person in the room was an incredible gift. Each person’s fight with cancer looks different but one thing is always true.
So I mark this milestone with a heavy heart for those still fighting and for those who have lost someone to cancer. My heart aches for you.
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