I just want to share something that many of you will not understand about what a cancer survivor goes through on a regular basis. Keep in mind that this is MY experience. If there’s one thing I learned clearly, it’s that every cancer is different, every person is different, every treatment is different, so it stands to reason that every survivor will likely feel different too!
Most days are just fine and what I would call ‘normal’. Ha! If you know me at all, then you know how I feel about ‘normal’! While cancer is not in the forefront of my thoughts on a daily basis, the effects of chemo and radiation are often on my mind as I am reminded daily of them.
I am eternally grateful for the staff at HSHS and Green Bay Oncology for ridding me of my cancer and am happy to say that I am a three year survivor. But one thing that comes to mind is how people who haven’t had a personal experience with cancer tend to think that those of us who are considered survivors are now done with cancer. Honestly, I don’t think I will ever be done with cancer.
Please don’t misunderstand me – I don’t want to be done with the world of cancer because it keeps me connected to some beautiful people who I am ever grateful to have met. But, in an effort to explain this, I’m writing this post.
Today, I’m struggling to catch my breath because of something that happened as a result of some treatment. No one will say that it was a direct result of chemo or radiation, but in my heart, I know that it’s a result of treatment. Sometimes I think that I’ve just got a bad habit of trying to breathe too deep and then when I can’t, I start to get a little panicky.
If you know how much I love to sing, then you’ll likely understand how disappointed I feel whenever I have to bow out of an opportunity to sing. Despite all my work to improve my breathing, it’s still a struggle many days. Here’s what happens: after singing just one song (and it usually happens after half a song) where I have long phrases that need to be held, or volume that needs to be projected, I will usually start to feel light-headed. I’ve learned to stop singing before it gets to that point, but it can get so bad that my limbs start to tingle and feel like they’re going numb. If it gets to that point, the only thing I can do then is to stop singing and find a seat.
There’s also the tiredness that I feel that I have never felt before chemo. I’m quite often heading to bed by 9:00pm now where it used to be normal for me to stay up until 11 or 12.
Dry mouth is a problem too – especially at night. I keep a glass of water at my bedside and often empty it during the night. Dry eyes are another problem which causes me to use eye drops – again, at night – and I’ll wake up 3 to 4 times during the night to add a drop to each eye.
Sometimes it seems that people think I’m not as quick witted as I used to be, and I’m probably not. But you know what? That’s not as important to me as it used to be either, so it’s all good.
Negative or Positive?
Please keep in mind that these are what some people would call the negative side effects of cancer and its treatments. I won’t do that. While these things are troublesome, I count it a blessing just to be able to have these problems. Why? Because it’s a testament to SO much.
It’s a testament to the fact that not only did I get through the treatments, but I’m now cancer free and THAT, my friends is something to celebrate for sure!
My point with this post is NOT to discourage anyone, but to remind you that when someone you love has gone through cancer treatments and has been declared cancer free or in remission, please, PLEASE don’t for one second EVER think that they are done with cancer! That will never happen. But this is not a bad thing! If you’re like me, you try to make the best of a situation and turn it around to help someone else. Just like you were helped by reading this post!
Also, remember that some side effects can last for the rest of the life of the cancer survivor – or as I like to call us – Thrivers! So, if your loved one says that she’s just not up for a day long shopping trip when you ask, just honor that and don’t push. These problems are real and may be here to stay. For me, I’m always trying to find ways to improve my overall health and I refuse to believe that any of this is permanent. Perhaps I’m just being foolish. I really don’t care. It’s my plan and I’m sticking to it!
What About You?
One final note: While I am thankful for all the knowledge and expertise that the wonderful doctors and nurses have in the area of cancer, ALL the glory goes to God alone! He is the reason I am able to forge on with my life and sit here writing this blog in the first place. He is the reason that you are sitting there reading it! Do you know Him? I sure hope you do. If not, please read the book of John in your Bible. It’s all there and so clear. If you need some help with it, please let me know. I want to help you. Please comment below or send me an email. I want to listen!
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