Today is a pretty sentimental one for me.
After two years of uncertainty, I’ve finally passed the proverbial ‘Danger Zone’. Yes, I did go to the danger zone, just not the one with Kenny Loggins, bomber jackets and aviators.
For cancer patients in full remission, relapse is most likely to occur during the first 24 months since finishing treatment, and August is my month. The month I finished my last dose of Radio and the month I realised my life would never, ever be the way it was before.
I saw my doctor today and as usual, all my bloods were ‘great’. I had the usual feel-up from him while he did the typical routine of asking me questions while I simultaneously try to answer and continue taking deep breaths. Today we talked about American Classics, my terrible enunciation of the word ‘Pierogi’ and how annoying it is when people say you’ve got the ‘lucky’ cancer.
So today is partly a celebration of the fact that I am getting further and further away from the treatment without any side effects that alter my day-to-day life (yet – cue Secondary Breast Cancer at 30 and heart disease at 35: I’m hoping I’ll survive the breast cancer). But mainly it’s a celebration of the fact that I am in a much better place now than I was this time two years ago.
Right after treatment, and I mean straight after it (as in day one), I was confident for what the future held! I was ready to ‘soldier on’, invigorated by the figurative fire my imminent death had planted in my heart.
Then once the dust settled and the appointments died down and the messages stopped coming in; I was left with this overwhelming sense of ‘how the fuck will my life ever be the same?’.
Yes, physically I got where I wanted to be in a pretty short time. In around eight months – maybe more, maybe less – I had lost majority of the weight I had put on, got back into a routine and grown some hair – though I probably wish I hadn’t in certain places. Sorry, Mal but this is the 21st century.
Yet mentally, I was all over the place.
I found myself obsessing over the Facebook pages of other patients who didn’t make it. Reading their Mum’s posts every week; how they weren’t coping and they missed them so much and nothing would ever fill the giant void in their chest. Or how their relationship status no longer had their girlfriend’s name in it because they were finally moving on with their life.
I was still experiencing all of those typical patterns of what they now call ‘survivorship’ (people used to not live long enough after having cancer to bother having a field of study for the after-cancer-life).
I was generally pretty angry, didn’t really know why it had to happen to me, confused because I thought that maybe I’d done something to bring it on and just constantly wondering when it would come back – or when a secondary type would manifest itself.
In January, right after I finished treatment, I went in for one of my regular sessions with my counsellor and before she even got two words out; the water works came in full force.
There I was, wallowing in self-pity over a box of tissues and a warm glass of water for an hour while she reassured me that what I was experiencing was totally normal. I just felt like I had lost so much control over myself emotionally (the control freak in me really hated that) and despite being back at work and almost starting Uni and feeling physically well, I couldn’t shake it!
Two years on, it’s funny to look back and remember feeling so helpless. For me, the hardest point of this whole ordeal was those first few months sorting myself out on my own. Note: I had to do it alone. Your Mum can’t help you come to terms with the fact that Cancer will always be a part of your life; as much as she wants to.
So two years on, here I am; not perfect – but heaps better than I was back then.
Despite still having my shit days and being a little uncomfortably morbid (I’m not uncomfortable about it; but other people justifiably are), I am easily the happiest I have ever been in my life. And I think a lot of that comes from always knowing that no matter what, things could be a lot worse than they are right now.
So huzzah for two years since I officially finished treatment!
I’m on the train home, fantasising about the parma I’m going to demolish at dinner tonight, and the run I’ll be doing directly before that to absolve myself of any guilt for the calories.
How good is life.