Of all the alternatives, running away is best. ~ Chinese Proverb
Time sure does fly when you are thinking about the future and trying to run away from your past. When I was diagnosed, I had a friend (who twice survived stomach cancer) tell me that surviving cancer is like walking away from a horrible car crash. As you walk away from the event, you turn around to take a look at what you have just been through.... and you say to yourself, "How did I come out in one piece?"
Physically, I am in one piece. Emotionally, I am in as many pieces as I have compartments in my head. I've always been a great compartmentalizer. Before cancer, I thought I needed therapy because I had relationship issues. After cancer, I needed (and still need) therapy because I would wake up crying after having dreams that I had gotten completely different types of cancer. The good news is I have managed to contain my crying outbursts to my one hour a week session with my psychiatrist.
I look back on my life the past two years in flashes of memories. While going through treatment, I measured the passing of the hours, days and months by when my next treatment, injection, blood draw, or scan was. In retrospect, those days are a blur now.
I am 19 months N.E.D.
Depressingly, I discovered that an old friend of mine was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in August. I e-mailed to ask him how he was doing, and after his response and an apology for the delay getting back to me, I responded:
Hey, no apologies - ever - for not wanting to talk about this crap. Some days I felt like it and others I didn't. Some days, I felt like I had to tell everyone I came into contact with about what I was going through so I would feel a little less alone. Other days and weeks, I wouldn't want to leave the house because I didn't think I could take listening to one more person bitch about some idiotic problem that wouldn't matter tomorrow.
I always appreciated people's concern for how I was doing, but I rarely wrote back because writing back would force me to think about it, and I couldn't put on the strong, happy face that people expected to see if I was thinking too much. People would say things to me like, "I don't know how you do it...." Um, excuse me? How do I do it? You just do it.
Even though I came to the profound realization that nobody could help me through this besides myself, I also realized I was not alone. I know that is only a small comfort, but nobody can understand this unless you have been there.The words just flowed, and I cried while thinking the thoughts that enabled me to write them. I hardly think I am in a position yet to offer real perspective on survivorship, but I am getting there.
Over the past year, I have met some incredible survivors, who make me feel less alone. I can be in a room with any one of them and feel like I am instantly connected because of our shared life experience of cancer. Oh the gifts that come in the form of I'm Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation, First Descents and Planet Cancer.