It’s been 17 months since my husband was diagnosed with cancer.
Month 1 is difficult to live, but easy to describe. You’re thrown into the trenches and you* fight with all your might to survive while you’re being bombarded with information and forced to make important life-altering decisions. Your friends and family are surrounding you with love. Thank goodness. You wonder how you’d survive without them.
Month 2 you’re still in the trenches, but you don’t hear quite as much noise, so you start trying peek out every once in a while. But mostly, you stay hunkered down. You’re afraid of what you’re going to see or hear.
Months 3-6 A new routine is beginning to emerge. The chemo cycle and its good days and bad days, so to speak, starts to become more predictable. You begin to plan around your new routine. You search for ways to make the bad days less bad and the good days even better. You obsessively research ways to increase your odds of beating this cancer.
Months 7-9 You’re finally used to the routine and are surprised when it veers off course and what was supposed to be a good day was in fact almost a bad day. New symptoms emerge and you wonder if they’re temporary or if they will be a permanent part of your life post-cancer. Your friends still love on you, but they aren’t around quite so much. You start to see the light at the end of the chemo tunnel.
Months 9-12 You finish your chemo–whoopie! But then you remember you can’t really celebrate because your cycle doesn’t end the moment the chemo stops being pumped into your veins. It’s a two week cycle and it’ll really take a good month for the cycle to run its course. Your friends want to celebrate with you, so you try, but you don’t really feel up to it. (and in our case, there was an extra surgery at month 10, a month after the chemo ended, so the whoopie celebration had to be pretty short)
Months 12-17 You start to figure out what the post cancer you looks and feels like. You celebrate a little more. You resettle into your life, taking back on some of the responsibilities and obligations you had let go during treatment. You’re still wondering if this is the new post-cancer you or if some of those nagging side effects might still dissipate. You find yourself talking occasionally about the future. Life almost feels normal again. But it’s definitely a new normal, tinged with a little more anxiety and a new appreciation for life and love and the things that matter most. You appreciate the fullness that is life. You recognize that your cancer is never going away completely, but you are starting to be okay with that. And then you look at your calendar and realize your scan is next week and you’re not quite so okay with it. But that’s life. Life with cancer.
*you=you, the cancer patient, or you, the loved one of the cancer patient (in my case, the wife of the cancer patient)
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