How Cancer Affected My Life
When I was diagnosed with cancer, my first instinct was to hide it from everyone (obviously my family knew) but I was very hesitant to share with anyone, actually I kept it hidden for almost two months only letting the school and my bosses know. I won’t lie though but keeping it a secret was both stressful and not. I didn’t have to worry about people feeling sorry for me but it was hard explaining to others why I couldn’t concentrate or even why I looked so pale, not going outside would only work for so long because if you know me, then you would know that I love going outside.
Life was chaotic the first few weeks of September… I’m pretty sure I spent majority of the month in the hospital and being spoiled by my family, no joke, I’m very thankful for everything that my family has done for me but I felt really guilty for all that was given to me. When chemo first started and everyone was at the hospital with me, I tried not showing how scared I was but on the inside, I was beyond scared that I didn’t know how to feel. I forced myself to eat just so my mom wouldn’t think something was wrong. What I have never told anyone was that although I never felt the chemo going inside my body, it burned. I felt disgusting , like I had bugs crawling under my skin and they were eating away all of my strength. I hated feeling tired, I hated people looking at me like I was dying but most importantly I hated people feeling sorry for me. I felt like this after every single chemo and no matter how positive I felt, those feelings were always waiting in the back of my head just waiting for the opportune moment to break through the wall I built to keep them at bay.
When my hair started falling it, it made sense to start telling people, only because when I went to the wig shop, I felt ridiculous and hiding something that was such a big part of my life wasn’t worth me feeling uncomfortable. That is where my stubborn gene kicked in, I was never one to truly care what others thought of me but I love my hair so it made it hard to accept that it started falling out. Of course, each night I cried, in the shower I cried and when I was alone I cried. Losing my hair just added on to all of the stress and once I felt that it was noticeable was when I started telling people. I started with my coworkers up at the college,( if you guys are reading this don’t take offense), the reactions were what I expected; sad and concern, I mean what else should I have expected? My job at the community center was different because majority of the time I only work with one or two of them so telling everyone was harder. I didn’t know all of them and the ones that I knew I had already told because they are my bosses. I remember sitting in the room contemplating whether or not I wanted to say anything but I knew it was the right thing to do but when I told them, I tried not crying and being me I tried my best to keep it light hearted and made some jokes (a coping mechanism that I use for everything). Even though my first instinct was to not tell anyone, letting people know what was going on made the time easier and now I have a couple of pretty awesome friends because I opened up about everything going on.
I’ve been done with chemo for six months and radiation for four months, and now that I am back on my feet and regaining back all of my strength am I jut now realizing everything that I lost because of my cancer, well everything and everyone that missed out on my life. So without further a due here are 5 things I lost and 5 things I have found from my cancer…
5 Things I’ve “Lost”
1. Unfortunately, the few friends I had before chemo, not many of them stuck around throughout my treatments and as much as I want to say it didn’t bother me, it did. I have always been there for them no matter what so why was it that when I needed them the most were they gone? I think about this all the time, I didn’t invite any of them to chemo with me because I already had a hard enough time having family seeing me go through this so it wouldn’t be fair to let them see it as well but I only went to chemo once every two weeks… and yet I felt more alone without having all my friends around.
2. An actual college experience, I talked about this in my previous post , but I missed out having fun and doing crazy things. Being restricted and limited on the things I can do kind of put a damper on things. I probably could of done more during chemo and radiation but within hours of being out of the house made me very tired. In reality, online college is no where as fun as on campus college. I just hate doing what I was told to do, especially avoiding being around people because I am actually a big people person.
3. My sense of independence, (my parents are going to laugh when they read this), I love going places… traveling, road trips, and of course going to the store with my parents but when I started getting sick leaving home was something I hated doing (unless it involved going places with mom and dad or if they made me stay home because I was really tired.) Being home made me feel better in a way, but the made me realize that I lost out on a lot of other things. I didn’t get my drivers license until I was twenty and through with treatments so relying on my dad to drive me around really sucked because it meant no going where I wanted to without a parent. Plus, being under constant supervision was a pain in the neck, I hated being watched like I was a baby.
4. This isn’t something I really lost but it is something that definitely feels like I lost the battle. This happens to me every two weeks, sometimes every week it just depends on my anxiety. Since being done with chemo, I get really bad anxiety attacks but not the like before I had cancer. I don’t get chest pains but I get into this weird funk that makes me clean and wash everything in my room because I smell the chemo. I am pretty sure a lot of people in my situation has dealt with this but I only start to notice it when things in my life settle down. It happens in the middle of the night, I lay in my bed preparing to fall asleep, putting my music on because I cannot sleep without drowning the thoughts in my head, and then it hits me. My bed smells like chemo and then my clothes smell like chemo. Then suddenly I cannot sleep because that’s all I can think about is chemo. I sit up in my bed and don’t sleep for the rest of the night because I need to clean my room and get rid of the smell. And so the cycle begins, the next morning I strip my bed and start washing everything pillows included and once that is done my clothes are next folding and refolding my clothes and getting rid of the ones that the chemo smell doesn’t go away after washing. So the control of my anxiety is lost to me and I deal with this more often than not.
5. I lost any and every ounce of strength both physically and mentally, chemo destroyed my body, like I had abs and was pretty fit but instead of losing weight and strength I gained weight and lost strength. I felt horrible about my body and couldn’t do anything about it because my port made it impossible to do any physical activity without feeling uncomfortable because that damn thing would move like no other. The weight gain did not help my anxiety and while I never told anyone, I was pretty ashamed of letting myself go like that and even now that I have lost that weight and gained back my strength, I still don’t feel quite as comfortable in my body.
Mentally, I knew I lost my strength, there were times and still are times that I don’t think I can do this (by this I mean my lifestyle), besides my family the only thing that kept me going was my stubbornness, yes, I am stubborn and proud of it. No, I know that my life is important, as are everyone else’s, but I have this feeling that I am going to do something important something life changing not just for me but for others as well but at times I felt like I had nothing, no strength, no fight, no drive and now that I am in remission, I am on that path to find it again.
5 Things I’ve “Found”
- I found something I’m passionate about- Spending hours upon hours in the hospital, I finally found what I am passionate about. I love helping people, always have and always will. There is just something about helping people that makes me feel whole again. Being passionate about something feels amazing which is why, I have chosen to revolve my life around helping others and staying happy.
- After my cancer treatments were over, I finally regained my strength (well some of it) I know I am no where near regaining all of my strength, I’m working on getting to a normal workout schedule and finally realizing that I can get through anything thrown my way. It’s going to take sometime for me to get back into the groove but as long as I stay positive, I know I can do this.
- I found hobbies. after some research and trying out different things, I finally found what I enjoy doing on the side. Blogging about my adventures and lifestyle is one, for a few months, I kind of gave up on it but after not writing for awhile, I realized that I really do enjoy blogging and sharing things about my life. I enjoy drawing, I have decided that I am going to pick up some art classes next semester just to get better at drawing. I love finding new hobbies and with these I cannot wait to find some more.
4. I found acceptance, this may seem weird but when I first was diagnosed with cancer, I denied everything. I lost faith and took my cancer as a punishment. Once everything was said and done, I realized that I was given this battle for a reason and I could defeat any obstacle thrown my way. I don’t know if I am ready to go back to church but I know that God is there for me and is guiding me through life the way he has planned it and for that I am willing to accept everything that happens to me.
5.I found my family, this isn’t just about my immediate family but I found those that were there for me every step of the way. Those that support me and believe in me. They have helped me start finding myself again and I am eternally grateful for everything they have done for me. From family to friends everyone that has been there for me, has become my family and I would do anything for them.
So there you have it… you now know more about me and my journey. Cancer affected my life and as much as I don’t want to be the girl that had cancer, I have accepted that this time of my life will always play a big part of who I am. I beat the odds against me and never gave up. I may have lost a lot but I gained so much more. I have learned to accept who I am and I am working on finding the bigger picture. Getting sick along my path was just a way of showing that I have so much more to look forward to in the present and the future. I will always cherish my life and my story and for that I know that I am in good hands and will always be.