I haven’t posted in awhile, mostly because it’s been the same boring, hellish routine of daily radiation for weeks. I have 7 treatments left and then I get to hunker down and heal, hopefully in time to actually be able to eat and enjoy some sort of food by Christmas.
Right now, in this moment, I want to give up. I’ve given everything and I’m now exhausted. I’m having a day where I can’t eat or drink without pain or super thick gross secretions gagging me. Nothing tastes like it should and I usually have this awful bitter taste in my mouth. Do you know how maddening it is to crave food you physically can’t have, and if you can it tastes awful? Most days are spent in a haze of pain killers and sleeping or attempting to get any drop of nutrition. I’ve lost about 20 lbs since I had surgery, most of which hit after radiation hell started. I’ve had to get IV fluids for dehydration and I’ve tried all sorts of supplements and extras. I feel absolutely done, over it, at my limit.
But truth be told, I’m sort of scared that treatment is ending. Daily scans, a weekly check-in with a doctor and nurse…done. I’ll be left to my own devices and a horrible propensity to Google symptoms. Don’t get me wrong, I’m MORE than happy to end this hell, but I’ll miss that security blanket. And, to be honest, I have no idea who I am without constant cancer appointments and tests and whatnot. I’m sort of afraid to assimilate myself back into “normal life”. I imagine it’s sort of how a prisoner feels going back to life outside of prison. People who haven’t been don’t understand the difficulty in navigating new routines, new habits, not having most of your time planned out for you by the people in charge of your life.
This is where my journey in finding the “new me” will begin. Who am I on the other side of this mess? What will I become? Can I build my strength back up and become healthier now? Do I sort of get a blank slate to work on things I put off before? Will I still have the support I need when the beams are off and the outward scars are healed but the emotional wounds are still fresh and stinging?
So many people who have never had to deal with cancer (pre-cancer me included) don’t understand that when treatment ends, it doesn’t mean we go back to “normal”. God-willing, in January I’ll have a No Evidence of Disease (NED) report, but many think that means “cured”. The sobering reality is I’ll live the rest of my life with scans and tests and anxiety about the cancer coming back or a new one forming, because there is no “cure”. I’ll do my best to not let it bother me, of course, but I can’t ignore it. It’s a part of me now.
I also feel a sort of “them and us” vibe between cancer survivors and those who haven’t had the disease. I don’t feel like there’s a competition, but that there’s just always this thing that my cancer friends will understand and my non-cancer friends won’t. It makes me a little bit sad. It almost feels like I’ve been to the edge of the earth and peered over, and I cant share that feeling with anyone unless they’ve seen it, too.
I’m worried that the expectation (from myself and others) will be for me to “bounce back” like none of this happened; like the last 4 months of pain, surgeries, more pain, radiation, worse pain, malnutrition, dehydration, body changes, and learning to talk and eat again can just be quickly pocketed away in some secret vault. I’m worried non-cancer people won’t understand if/when I have setbacks despite being out of treatment.
I know, eventually, all of these fears will subside and I’ll hopefully get to a new normal. I’ll never be the same person I was before cancer. I’ll hopefully be a stronger, more gracious, patient, and resilient person. But in the meantime, please pardon all the tears and delays while I try to construct the new me.