Nick said something to me the other night….he said that I haven’t been “his Deb” for a long time now. Cancer changes you. I believe that anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer can understand what I mean. After the whirlwind of diagnosis and treatment, you have to find yourself again. You are finished with treatment and more than anything you just want to put all of the cancer crap behind you. But the lingering side effects are a constant reminder of what you have been through. Life as you knew it is no longer.
A survivor deals with possible scars on their body. Emotional scars. Physical limitations of not being able to do everything that you once could. Fatigue. Bad post-chemo hair (I am attempting to be funny on this one, but it really isn’t all that funny when a year and a half after chemo you still have a freaking bald spot in the back of your head!) The start of trying to figure out the new you begins.
You are not really getting back to normal. I don’t believe that is possible. Instead, you have to find a new normal not only for you, but your spouse, and the rest of your family. A cancer diagnosis and treatment is also brutal on the husband/wife of the patient. We have to remember that they have been affected also and that they need support. They also have to try to find the new normal for themselves.
For me, life after cancer has taken on a new meaning. I look at so many things differently now. My relationships have changes. With my husband, children, mom, sisters, and extended family. For all of my married life I was quiet and didn’t voice much about things that bothered me. I went along with what Nick wanted. This is not being said in a bad way about Nick. He didn’t know that I felt differently about things because I didn’t tell him. It made me happy for him to be happy. Now we are both adjusting to the fact that I am more vocal when I am upset or when things bother me. I insist that he listen to me. He is not used to this and it is taking a lot of adjustment. He is not quite sure how to take the “new Deb”. We have had some pretty heated arguments over the last few months. Nick says that he is happy that I am speaking up and telling him how I feel about things now, yet at the same time it has caused a strain because he is not used to me disagreeing with him and standing firm on what I want/need. So, like I said, it has been a big adjustment period. I know that we are strong and committed to one another, and because I know this, I also know that we will work out the kinks in our new life and come out even stronger on the other side. We may not always agree, but we do agree that we love and respect one another.
I am aware that some people feel that I have changed a lot. Some could say for the better, while a few (I hope a very few) could say for the worse. Those few probably feel that way because I now speak my mind and don’t just set back and take crap from people. I don’t think I am being mean, but I am sticking up for myself. I feel that it is way over due in some instances.
Many of my fellow pink sisters (me included) have dealt with depression and anxiety. While some do not understand how you can become depressed after the treatment is over (when you should be celebrating), it is actually a very common occurrence. You are happy that treatment is over, but you can sink into depression due to the physical and emotional changes that are affecting you following treatment. Many of us (me included) deal with body image issues due to the scars. So much has changed and it is difficult to deal with it all. You have to take the time to take care of yourself. Go talk to a therapist if you think it may help you. Do not be embarrassed to admit that you need help.
My last thought on the new me is something that a few of my fellow pink sisters have also experienced. Family and friends think that now that treatment is over that you should just bounce right back to the old you physically. It is impossible. You are still tired. A tired that cannot easily be explained. Tired to the point where you need breaks and naps even though you were not a person to take naps before. It does not matter if others do not understand this. Just remember to take care of yourself.
Cancer fighters have to move on with their lives. This is what I am attempting to do. I am trying to find my way in this crazy new life of mine. Taking care of myself even if it means I have to say no to someone else. We cannot live every day wondering if today is the day that the cancer returns. That is not living.
Look for something positive in each and every day. Believe me, no matter how terrible the day has been, there is something positive to be found if you just take the time to look.