Cancer. The big C word most are afraid of. The one young adults never think they will hear. The one that changes someone’s life in an instant forever. The one it took for me to stop and take a good look at mine.
When people hear about cancer, they automatically think of the physical pain it entails. At the hospital, the day of orientation and the day of the first chemo I was read the complete list of side effects possible attached to the chemo I was getting. They talked to me about pain, fatigue, nutrition and skin changes but one thing they didn’t mention is mental and emotional health. They did not tell me how to deal with the fear and the emptiness or what to do when you start to feel depressed and start having what they call “chemo brain”. Going through a month of tests, a biopsy, a lumpectomy, a port-a-cath insertion and scans made me focus on my physical health and doing whatever the doctors were telling me so much that I didn’t really think about the rest. Even after starting treatments, I would think about things in a technical way more than in an emotional one most of the time. I wanted to go out and live a sort of “normal” life. I wanted to be so strong and handle this like a champ that I kept some emotions in. I didn’t want to feel defeated but I definitely had my cry sessions and moments where I felt completely broken. I still do.
When April came ( 2 months into this journey), I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend, who lives in Mexico, come spend what was supposed to be all summer with me until I was done with chemotherapy. His presence made me feel a lot better and everyone could tell it really helped me having him by my side. At times I would almost forget that I was going through all of this. Unfortunately, some events out of both of our control made it so he had to go back mid-May to continue university, as his program is all year long, or else he was losing most of his classes he had already done. (Don’t even get me started on the school system over there.) Seeing as things were going “well” for me (positive results from PET scan), it was the smart decision for his/our future. It wasn’t our first goodbye. We had done this many time before as you do in a long-distance relationship but this time was really hard because of the situation. I knew it would be but you are never ready for something like that. I believe that everything happens for a reason but I was mad at the universe for this. Actually, I’m still mad about it and resent that this had to happen. It’s hard every day. Some more than others.
I am a person who is used to moving around a lot. As I have told you before, I had two jobs, went to night school and spent most of my free time with my family. Going from such an active lifestyle to a passive one was a rough transition. Cancer is lonely. Life stops and changes for you but the people around you have to continue with theirs. My friends and family have been very supportive but they have school and work they have to go to during the week which means I spend most weekdays at home alone. This is one of the reasons I started this blog as actually. The idea had crossed my mind but now that I had stopped school and work to focus on my health was the time to do it. That being said, I am still alone at home and can feel very lonely sometimes. It’s easy to think that I have all the time in the world to do many things but it is not that simple. There are some days where I do not have the energy to do much and having nobody to motivate me to move during the day (as my boyfriend did) is difficult. It is a constant battle between resting because my body needs it and getting out and doing things because my mind needs it. Now cancer is also lonely in the sense that you feel nobody can understand. The people around you can be there and help you but one thing they can’t do is completely understand how you are feeling. I am glad they can’t because that would mean they would have to go through it as well and I do not wish that on anybody but it gets hard feeling emotionally isolated. What I have found some sort of comfort in are the online communities. Talking to other people online that are or have been in the same boat as I has helped with that loneliness. It also made me realize I am far from the only one to feel this way. The support and encouragement I’ve had from individuals who have never even met me have filled my heart with love.
At the moment I pretty much live 2 weeks at a time and have to live day by day during those 2 weeks. These past two weeks have been hard mentally and emotionally. My motivation for the blog, learning new things and even just getting out has been non-existent and I am trying to get out of it. Also, the loneliness is taking its toll on me and I really can’t wait to be done with chemo and get on with my life. I spent 2 days without really getting out of bed or eating much because I just went down this emotional rut. As much as I can’t wait to be done with treatments, I am beyond terrified of the future. I am still in this battle. I am not even yet in remission and I am stressing about it. Another thing I need to work on A LOT. Trying not to stress about everything in life like I used to before and still do sometimes is something important for me. To be completely honest I am convinced it is one of the reasons I have cancer. The stress just overpowered me and my body. It is NOT worth it. You WILL figure it out and things will be ok. It is ok to be afraid. Fear is a big part of cancer and life in general. I am always hopeful but a part of me is fearful of how things will turn out in the end. I have many mixed emotions. Fear, hope, anxiety, gratitude, pain, motivation, exhaustion. It is seriously an emotional roller coaster.
The mental and emotional parts of living with cancer are as important as the physical one. Please keep that in mind if anyone you know goes through this difficult experience. Be there for them and encourage them to get out. Even though they say they don’t feel like it, they will thank you later. If you are the one going through it, talk to someone. I had and still have a hard time talking about it to the people around me but it is the only way. (I try to be Wonder woman sometimes.) Ask for help when you need it. It will make the rest of the journey a little less difficult. I am really hoping to be able to talk more about this in the future and emphasize how important it is for patients. In the meantime, I will continue to fight against all parts of this battle and know I will come out stronger.