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I Beat Cancer; Now What?!
AniD
46 Posts

So after 2 years of battling breast cancer, originally diagnosed May 2019 and had a recurrence September 2020, and had a recent scare again September 2021, I am officially cancer FREE! I am currently doing physio and counselling to help with the transition back to my ”new normal”. It’s helping. I did recently find out that one of my friends who also had breast cancer, has also had a recurrence. She is stage 4 and it’s metastasized to her bones. I feel like everyone around me has had or died from cancer over the last couple of years. My dad died in 2017 (stage 4 lung cancer), my favourite aunt died the same month I was diagnosed (May 2019), my step-father died of pancreatic cancer in 2018, and I’ve been battling this nonsense for the last 2 years of my life. It’s been a crappy couple of years. As hard as I try to get past and get over all of this “cancer crap” it keeps creeping back into my life one way or another. It’s frustrating. It’s scary. I want to “close this chapter” of my life. I want my fresh start that I feel I have earned. I have survivors guilt. I’m trying to get over this, as I know this is self-inflicted and has nothing to do with those I’ve lost or am losing. It’s just a big messy hard hand I’ve been dealt that I am trying to deal with. It‘s a lot of trauma. I’m trying to be compassionate with myself, but it isn’t easy. I’m not patient. I just want to put it all behind me. I don’t want to live in fear anymore of cancer recurrences. I don’t want to worry about others getting sick in my life anymore. I want some time where someone I love or myself isn’t sick. Is that asking too much? I feel like the last few years have been a constant roller coaster. A lot of ups and downs and with the pandemic thrown in it hasn’t been easy for a lot of people. I am learning that nothing will ever be the same again. I know that things are going to be different for me. I’ve accepted that. But I want to feel joyful again. I feel rebellious in the face of cancer. I don’t want it to be part of my daily narrative anymore. I am wondering how long it has taken other survivors to reach that point where they no longer see cancer as the ongoing narrative of their life’s journey and rather a closed chapter in part of their personal history. I guess I’m asking survivors how they transitioned back to their lives. What changed for you? Is it better? How did you take that leap from leaving cancer behind you and looking once again to the future, knowing it would be filled with new memories and how did you leave all that trauma behind? How did you leave the worry and anxiety behind? Sorry for the long winded post. I’m just trying to see if anyone has some navigation tools that I could borrow to help me with this part. TIA.

10 Replies
Runner Girl
2321 Posts

@AniD

Thank you for the update and a big CONGRATULATIONS on being declared cancer free!!

You've definitely had a very hard time these last few years and have really earned a break. I hope your counselling sessions can alleviate some of your stress and trauma and set you on the path for a less anxious future.

Runner Girl

supersu
577 Posts

@AniD

good morning!
thanks for this post, (I LOVE long winded ones--haha) and it put a smile on my face to see the words ‘cancer free’.

(my sincere condolences for the loss of your loves over the last few years…that is super tough.)

I love the way you articulate your apprehensions about going forward. I can relate 100%. it is really a crap sandwich we are asked to eat and say we enjoy, isn't it!!??

I am honestly not sure that I will ever be able to forget I have/had cancer. it is just one chapter in my life book that is now a part of my story.
I have never spoken to any cancer survivor who doesn't have fear of recurrence. it is part of our DNA now.

I hope the physio & counselling can make you more comfortable moving forward and creating your new chapters…..let us know as you move along how things shake out.

my coping mechanism: try to find some little thing every day to feel happy/joy.
today it is going to be drag queen bingo.
yesterday is was new toothbrush AND new sock day….double dinger!!
small silly things that are slowly pulling me out of the black hole of cancer.
hope you can find a small thing today that puts a smile on YOUR face.

cheers/hugs
su

#survivor #lifeaftercancer

Cynthia Mac
3441 Posts
Hi, AniD‍ , if there is such a thing, your post is a perfectly understandable, productive rant.

I love supersu‍ ‘S idea of being kind to yourself. It’s a great start, and one of the key actions in a little book someone gave me years ago called How to Survive the Loss of a Love.

Times like these have led me to some awesome books, some of which have quite literally changed my life. Some of them have helped me get my mind off the “hamster wheel,” some have helped me find positivity when I needed it most, and some have helped me regain my “creative mojo” after a period of upset. I’m just going to list them with the authors, and hope that this information will lead you to the right one(s) for you.

Wherever You Go, There You Are - Jon Kabat-Zinn (I have this in audio and hard copy formats)
Full Catastrophe Living - also Jon Kabat-Zinn
The afore-mentioned How to Survive the Loss of a Love (it has 3 authors, and I never remember them)
Just about anything written by Louise L. Hay, but for me, You Can Heal Your Life was the big one
The Artist’s Way, (and more recently Vein of Gold) by Julia Cameron
KenD
9 Posts

Hi Ani… Congrats! I was diagnosed in March ‘20 with Multiple Myeloma and went through chemo and a stem cell transplant a year ago. I never had a bucket list per se, but after 25 years as a devoted parent to 2 wonderful kids, I have started living a more ’unapologeticaly selfish' life… and ‘unapologetically impulsive’. If I want to do something (within reason), I just do it. Do the things that you enjoy! I devour audio books, and podcasts that I enjoy. I took an online course in astronomy, got my commercial drone pilot licence, started astrophotography. I study astrophysics, quantum physics, and explore consciousness for fun. A friend recently told me that I was the happiest person they know… which is kind of weird when you technically have an incurable cancer. But my hematologist called me recently to say that I am cancer free. And because the cancer was detected so early… the clock that has been ticking in the back of my mind - is quieter now. But those of us that have faced our own mortality and come to some terms with it, can offer help. Many people are struggling right now. I do find myself counselling friends and family. Which I'm happy to do. I'm blessed to have a half time type of job that pays enough to provide for my needs. I live in a place that I love. Its really all I've ever wanted. I am blessed. Cancer changes lives. In my case, it has not been terrible. I have been so lucky. I've lost many friends along the way. But I still have my mental acuity (mostly), my physical ability (mostly), and this awareness of mortality that makes me truly grateful for every day. I recently bought myself an old Jeep like I used to have when I was younger. I drove along the beautiful country roads for an hour a couple of weeks ago… the smile never left my face! I truly hope that everyone can find some of the peace that I've been able to find along my journey. We can't always choose the things we face - but we can always choose how we face them! All the best, to you and everyone else!!!

66f28fe1c04fc91922d3b44bd44daaef-origina
Sadie12
92 Posts

This is a great topic, @AniD .

You write of the same space that I am in right now. I finished treatment for Ovarian cancer in March, I am in remission while on a PARP Inhibitor to keep me that way. I also have a genetic mutation (BRCA2) which gives a higher probability of facing cancer again.

“I am learning that nothing will ever be the same again. I know that things are going to be different for me. I’ve accepted that. But I want to feel joyful again. I feel rebellious in the face of cancer. I don’t want it to be part of my daily narrative anymore.

This is where I am, as well.

And yet – I want to talk about it. I want people to know that I survived and that I intend to thrive. I want to be a success story. I want my story to inspire and give others hope.

I feel proud and valued to be part of this support group. I can feel love and prayers from people that I will never meet in real life.

Gratitude – thanks @supersu for the reminder to seek out joy always.

@KenD – I love your attitude and your big smile. “Cancer changes lives. In my case, it has not been terrible.” I share that feeling myself.

I have 2 very small children, who I am thankful for and love, they make my heart beat and give me a lot of laughs…but sometimes, I feel a bit of a pity party that I cannot be impulsive and selfish in big ways, like cashing in RRSPs to buy a motorhome to travel North America. I haven’t actually ruled this out, yet but will likely wait until the youngest is more travel-ready (he’s only 14 months). However, I am trying to find little ways to fit in things that are dear to my heart, while raising these wild boys and keeping their futures in my mind.

My self-care ticket is Yoga, walking, art, gratitude, friends.

I am thankful for the person who posted on this forum one day, reminding me that ‘Cancer may likely get me one day, but it’s NOT getting me TODAY’. I’ve shortened that to a mantra when my thoughts go south (not just about cancer, but about any negative self-talk) ‘NOT TODAY’

Hoping all that read this will find some joy today.

Sadie

ACH2015
2198 Posts

@AniD Congratulations to you on the cancer free declaration. I understand and share many of the things you mention during the diagnosis and treatment. The loss of friends and family to cancer, the feeling of what now, how to move forward, and how to put the past in a place to accept what is, what has been and the new chapter you are to write as you move forward.

I recently past a milestone myself. 5 year survivor of Unknown Primary Cancer. And I cannot term this any other way than - survivor. Diagnosed in 2016, recurrence in 2018, and CT's, blood work and exams every 3 - 4 months - for life.

Recently, I wrote to the 10 doctors (and their teams) I believe made - and continue to make the difference in my survival. This in some way provides me with a milestone that was not expected - but much cherished. I took a photo before I mailed these letters, and here it is. I think of this as my Circle of Care.

3a2a1cfe3209168944f0172b88ff32cd-origina

@ACH2015 - In a world where we send most things by email. I know this will be meaningful to hold a thoughtful letter in their hands and see the difference they made.

You have advocated for yourself every-step-of-the-way and surrounded yourself with the best team. You have always been the most important member of your healthcare team though!

Thanks for sharing with us. You have been an inspiration to many!

Lacey

ACH2015
2198 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator Thank you Lacey.

I too have been inspired so many times here - and continue to be as well.

Happy to pay this forward to others on the site.

ACH2015

DSJ
32 Posts

Thanks for articulating what many of us feel and think!

Haemish
138 Posts

@AniD I enjoyed reading your post and congrats on your success. Boy have I been where you are and I’m still there in many ways. Tomorrow morning I am heading in to a CT scan which is roughly a year since I was declared cancer free. I never know what date people pick as their anniversaries whether it’s the last day of chemo or when the dr gives you the all clear. Lol. Nonetheless, I am still working through things everyday. I went through the survivors guilt big time and another survivor told me to stop because even though I didn’t think I had earned my survivor badge they pointed out that I most certainly did. I have been through chemo and radiation and surgery and now have a permanent colostomy. I still feel like I didn’t have it as tough as others and didn’t deserve to be a proud survivor. I am back at work as a teacher and doing all that I did before but still very much alone. I was alone when I rang the gong to celebrate being cancer free and I’m alone on these anniversaries. Not that I don’t have friends and family but no one seems to pay any attention to it. It’s weird because I feel the need to tell others I have a CT scan because I feel like I need to remind them I’m a survivor and I’m not sure why. I am three years from retiring and it’s all I can think of but I often think why am I not living now instead of waiting? I am blessed with an amazing 10 year old girl who I get to spend lots of time with but I worry that I’m not making the most of time with her and that “the beast” will return and I won’t be able to fight him off. I like you wondered when it would be behind me because I had lip cancer this past summer which also required surgery And looking in the mirror everyday and seeing my bag is a constant reminder of cancer. So at the end of this long rant all I can say is take it a day at a time. Try to make yourself happy each day and surround yourself with those who make you feel good. You are here for a reason and even if cancer didn’t give you some great epiphany to help you live the rest of your life; you are here and just being here makes all the difference. I’m not sure if this helped but I wish you happiness and great health.

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