Saturday, September 23, 2017

During cancer treatment, and for some time after, you live minute by minute. Not even day by day because things can change so quickly. One minute you may be fine and the next minute you develop a fever which puts you on hospital watch. It is so incredibly draining to live this way, but it is just what you do and you adjust.

Once treatment is over, you being being able to see in increments of your scans. I think I lived 3 months by 3 months that first year. It got slightly better this past year, but even now when I think of future plans or buy concert tickets, I think of how many scans I have to "pass" before the event happens.

It was really hard for me to look ahead for a long time. It wasn't that the future scared me, but more so that I was so used to living minute by minute that I forgot what it is like to be able to look ahead.

I wonder, daily, if people expect me to have moved on by now. When I bring up something that happened while I was sick or talk about it, I do not want people to think I am doing it for sympathy or attention ('cus trust me, I am not).

What I want people to understand is that I lived minute by minute for a year. I was so in the moment that I never considered looking ahead. Now that I am at 6 month scan increments and have resumed some version of "normal", I am finally seeing the impact cancer had on my life. That I will have this experience and its side effects forever. My leg will always click. My scars are there forever. I will always remember being so sick and tired. I lost out on part of my college experience that I will never get back. Things moved on without me. My entire future will now look different than I had originally expected it to. All the things I had pictured at one point will be affected by cancer. It is now like a shadow over my life.

Cancer is a traumatic experience, especially when you are young. I think everyone would agree with that. I think I tend to brush over giving it credit for being so awful. It is easy for me to do that because it just seems like it was never made to be a big deal. From the beginning it was "we found it, we will get it, and you'll be fine". I am SO thankful for that. I wouldn't go back and change it. What I need to recognize now, though, is that my story is not any less meaningful than anyone else's. I had CANCER. And it is okay that I am not over it.

I know that other people have moved on. I get it. I really wish I could. I want you to know that while yes things are going well and I no longer look sick, what you don't see, is how long it takes me to phrase what I post. You don't see how nervous I get the day of my doctors appointments. You don't see that I struggle over what to wear to these appointments because I don't want a cute outfit to be ruined by bad news. You don't see how I second guess every facial expression of every person I come in contact with. You don't see how I start comparing scenarios in my head (at diagnosis I had just done __ or was about to __ and then compare it with where I am now). You don't see how something as simple as the weather that day or a particular smell immediately brings me back to that time. I don't actually believe this stuff, but I also can't not. I struggle so much between getting comfortable with the idea that things are okay because I don't want to just assume that and have them not be. It is SO hard. I am not sure people understand how hard scan days and the waiting period are, even still.

Cancer changed the way my world works. 2 1/2 years post diagnosis, and I feel like I am just waking up the impact it left. New things reveal themselves to me everyday and my first thought is always "that is because of cancer" or "cancer did that". It drains me to think about living like this for the rest of my life (which I am thankful to get to live and blah blah blah....what other 22 year old has to justify complaining with that?).

I am getting some good opportunities because of cancer (and also got a wave from Ed Sheeran at his concert--thank you cancer card--now if anyone can help a girl out with Harry Styles......) . I had a moment in the car the other day where it almost occurred to me that I was thankful for the experience. I quickly decided that I am still not thankful for cancer. I will never understand why this happened to me. I still wish it didn't. That, however, does not mean that I can't be okay with how I am making the best of it. I got handed a really shitty card, and I am happy to see some good come of it. I can be doing these things without being thankful for cancer.

Almost two years off treatment, and things are okay. I am slowly picking up the pieces, but there are still lots of pieces out there I am sure I will not find till later. I am slowly accepting that this is just a slow process. The expectation out there is that once you are done, you are done. It is not at all like that, and I so want people to understand that. My entire life changed forever in one minute, and it would be crazy to expect me to move on so quickly.

I am realizing now that I will never be able to look forward, without first looking back. That is just how life after cancer works, I continue to discover.

1 comment:

  1. This is a so beautiful and honest, Samantha. Thank you for putting your story into such powerful words.