Fight or Flight - the unseen and long term effects of cancer
The radiation machine I visit every day.
I’ve been sitting here for a while trying to think about what I can write. I know there are loved ones out there waiting for an update, but I just haven’t felt inspired to share. Not because the news is bad. On the beautiful contrary – I am nearing the end of treatment (just 4 more zaps to go) and then hopefully that will be the end of this deep deep valley my family and I have had to walk through.
In the last 7 months I have faced diagnosis, major surgery, more diagnosis, more surgery, unscheduled hospital stays, chemotherapy and now radiation. I can’t even begin to describe, let alone summarise what that all felt like, but I’ve been assured I’m doing well all things considered. Now I need to face genetic testing, a change in diet, lifestyle and mentality, and the reality of being on hormone pills for a very long time – which doesn’t sound like a big deal but these little pills have their own sour lolly scramble side effects. Like more cancer for example. But that’s worst case scenario I’m told!
Yes, I am nearing the end of this journey and although the doctors and specialists can’t guarantee I have no more cancer….I BELIEVE I have no more cancer. Not only did I chop it out, but I rained body-killing fire down on any rogue cells that may be sneakily hiding away. I have done everything in my power, with a lot of grace and mercy shown to me, and now it’s time to rest in faith and assurance. Well nearly time….I still have a week to go and another 2 weeks of intensified side effects from radiation, as well as corrective surgery in the future. I also am hoping and praying that the radiation doesn’t destroy the good work my surgeon did, otherwise it will be more time in the operating theatre for me!
Like many people with cancer who have gone through treatment and come out the other side, I am not whipping out the pom poms and organising a big party to celebrate the end of this hideousness. Some people do, but many survivors do not. There are many reasons for this, and whether right or wrong (in your opinion) - it doesn’t matter. It’s what we feel and until you walk a mile in our shoes you probably won’t get it.
The problem with walking miles and miles in these particular shoes, is that you get so used to fighting for your life on that nasty road, that when it’s over, you literally don’t know what to do with yourself. It’s a massive psychological drop (from dizzying heights), after which many people are faced with post-cancer depression. Consider this; The fight or flight response in ordinary everyday life, is a physiological condition that usually hits momentarily and then back to life as you know it. Well imagine being in that state consistently for months and months then having to find your exhausted way back to normality. It’s no wonder people experience these intense lows. And speaking of the idea behind cancer being “over”, well, they say if you’ve had cancer, there really is no over about it. Cancer can’t be cured. You are either in remission or you are not, and most of the time you don’t even know if your either/or. Such is the sneaky beast that is cancer.
Anyway, I said all of that to say this: I understand it – and I believe more people need to work on understanding and supporting this reality for cancer survivors as its’ not common knowledge and therefore not supported adequately. If you know someone that has battled cancer and has come out the other side, don’t be so quick to seal up the box and shove it in storage. Try to understand that this may be a life-long reality (in varying degrees) for some people, and it’s not easy or easily forgotten!!
As for me, well I may understand it, but I’m not entirely convinced I (currently) fall into these painful categories. Not because I’m somehow better than anyone, but for other reasons which I’m sitting here trying to figure out..... Sure, there is a hint of grey cloud hovering off in the distance - just in line of my peripheral vision, but it won’t draw near to me unless I give it permission. Fear has no place in my life and I’ll keep declaring that until the day I die.
I think it’s because I’ve come to appreciate the deeper understandings I’ve been gifted throughout this journey, and dare I say it, appreciate the journey itself. That’s a crazy conclusion, but I know that I’ve grown as a person – a woman – throughout this experience and I wouldn’t want to trade that woman out if I had another chance. She's here to stay and I kind of like her.
I don’t want to celebrate the end of that part of my journey because it doesn’t belong in the same ship set to sail as cancer. Of course I’m happy that the cancer has been dealt with and I no longer have to subject my body to such aggressive treatment! But the journey as a whole..…well, I just can’t bring myself to do anything except thank God for it, and look both back and forward to the future with quiet determination.
I’ve still got a long road to travel, and many obstacles yet to face. I’m not going to get into it on this blog, but no doubt I’ll fill you in as I feel inspired to do so.
I’ll leave you with this beautiful and powerful quote I found on the Propel Women site, that has spoken to my soul. Say yes with me! Bex xx
“It is not the strong who make the greatest leaders, it is the once broken. It is the ones who know the strength obtained in weakness and the passion for living, creating, and nurturing that comes from pushing through the pains of life”. –Rosilyn Houston