The support group I belong to is one with sensitive and sympathetic ears, but none of the group members are in my shoes (as I am not in theirs), and the time we have together every month is to be shared amongst all of us. I feel like I should be quiet most of the time because I am post-treatment, and some of them are still in the middle of it all. They have more pressing issues than I do, I figure.
It’s almost like we should have two groups. One for those in treatment, and one for those in remission. I sometimes feel guilty talking about the problems I face because they would have seemed trivial to me when I was in chemo, fighting for my life. But at this point in my life, these problems are certainly not trivial to me, and I know I shouldn’t feel guilty. But I do.
I wake up every day glad to be alive, certainly, but I’m not excited about life like the way I thought I would be, having had Death just around the corner, whispering my name two years ago. I swore up and down that I would never admit a “bad hair day” after having had so many “no hair” days, yet there I stand, in front of the mirror in the morning, complaining to myself that my hair “sucks” and it won’t “do anything!” What’s wrong with me? At least I HAVE hair! At least I’M ALIVE!
I swore I would never waste time with trivial matters, nor worry about the weather. I promised myself I wouldn’t work at a job unless I loved it. I promised I would never have road rage. Why am I not following through with the promises I made myself a mere 18 months ago? How can I be taking life for granted again?
Just like I felt I had to put on a brave face at the time of my diagnosis and during my treatment, I felt like I had to be this strong person who can over-come anything when it was over. I went back to work at a date both my doctor and I agreed (three months after the end of my treatment), but in retrospect it was too early. My short term memory was still barely viable, and my emotions never got a chance to be stable. But I wanted to be part of “normal” society again, pay my taxes, and get a much needed paycheque. And I wanted to belong to a different group of people again: the cancer free group.
So here I am, in the cancer-free group of working nine-to-fivers, wondering to myself, there must be more than this? I’m not as motivated as I should be, so, where do I go from here? How does one enter the “Survivor Life”smoothly? Well, I suppose we need to do our best to stop worrying about recurrence (yeah, right). I don’t know how to do this, and I wish someone would tell me how.
For instance, I used to want to have a bunch of children, enough for a volleyball team, but now I worry that if I have a relapse and can’t beat it a second time, I’d have a bunch of kids being raised without a mother. It’s strange, but I think of having two as safe, because I know my husband could handle raising them alone if he had to. But five kids is a different story altogether.
Even admitting that I’m scared of recurrence is a problem for me because people will give me one of two responses, guaranteed, and neither one is interesting to me whatsoever. I get the “yeah, well, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow, so stop worrying about the future” from friends. My response is usually this: “Yes, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. But before I cross the street, I’m going to look both ways. So, if I’m careful, I won’t get hit.” But there’s NOTHING I can do about breast cancer.
The other response I sometimes get is that I should have a positive attitude; no negative thoughts whatsoever. I strongly believe my positive attitude and the thought that I WOULD survive had a big part with my remission. But I think forgetting the statistics about my future is silly, as my decisions will affect other people, namely my unborn children.
I’m trying to “get on with my life,” and I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it. I consider the stats of recurrence, but I don’t dwell on them. I feel like I’m in limbo somewhat, and I imagine once I’ve passed the eight year high risk period I’ll forget about it as much as possible. But what do I do until then?
Keep living, taking the time to smell the roses, spending fun times with family and friends, remembering to appreciate every bite of food that tastes as it should, unlike the way it tasted after chemo. I guess I need to speak my mind more, without being afraid of other’s opinions, or accepting that maybe they’re right and my attitude should change.
Speaking to the members of my group feels good, but I don’t know if those who are still fighting for their lives can truly be of supportive of those in remission. I already forget what it was like to be in their shoes, and they don’t really know what it’s like to be in mine. Yet.
But at the very least, I can talk and get a hug, and make some good friends.