The Truth about Remission
For those that haven’t had cancer or have not been touched by it in some way or another, they sometimes believe that once you’re in remission, your journey is over. Yes, maybe your treatment is over, but the journey isn’t completely over, it’s just separated into another chapter “Life after cancer”, I like to call it. It’s never truly over. It’s something that all of us will have to deal with in one way or another. Let’s be real, chemo and radiation save our lives, but they also cause a hell of a lot of side effects, including secondary cancers. And unfortunately people relapse daily, so everyone can kindly STFU when they say “but Lymphoma is the good type of cancer”– I know so many people that have relapsed and or died from Lymphoma. There is no good cancer. Period. End of story.
- Some people become angry after treatment. Some just can’t get past the trauma, and others learn from it, and live in a completely different way. It doesn’t matter how tough you are, because I consider myself extremely tough, and I still have my days. Cancer has caused me to be way more emotional than I’ve ever been in my life. Any traumatic life event that you go through will leave scars and people survive in different ways. Completely different ways. My way of surviving isn’t necessarily the same as the next cancer patient.
There are so many remission scenarios. Here is mine:
- The first 6 months of remission were the most difficult for me. I remember the first few months of being in remission, I would cry every single day. I would text my friend Meg, and we would be like “why the hell are we crying every day? Shouldn’t we be happy that we’re done with all of this?” It’s actually because when you’re in remission, it finally hits you that you literally almost died and spent the majority of the year fighting for your life. It’s a big WTF moment and a lot to take in. When you’re going through treatment, you’re too sick and tired to actually realize what’s going on. At least I was.
- Post remission, any small symptom that you experience is going to make you flip out. Anything. It’s normal, this is your new normal, and it’s something that you and I both have to accept. Don’t listen to your non-cancerish friends, because until they are poisoned, cut open, and burnt multiple times, they just won’t get it. They will try to get it, but they just can’t, and you also can’t expect them to. My best friend from elementary school actually kind of gets it though. But that’s because she’s my person. In all actuality, how could you not flip out if you’re experiencing a symptom that originally lead to your cancer? It’s normal. I would flip out constantly. Until I stopped, to the point where it’s almost bad, because I’m a pharmaceutical rep and I’ve reached the point where I won’t go to the doctor (obviously I go for scans and check ups) unless my clients make appointments for me (True story–don’t be like me). I had an earache the other week because I’ve been flying so much. My client made me an appointment at the ENT. I went, and it turned out it was linked to a practice that originally misdiagnosed me–but different doctor. I literally broke down into tears because it just brought back so many horrible memories. Oh, cancer.
- 2 months post remission though, I actually convinced my doctor and myself that I was relapsing and had him order unnecessary CT scans. I scared the crap out of him, and he laughed when he looked at the scan and was just like relax, you’re not relapsing, you just have to go to the bathroom apparently. Our minds play crazy tricks on us, and this is normal! It’s completely normal, so don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s not. My nose was bleeding the other day when I was in Puerto Rico. My initial reaction was, fuck, do I have Leukemia now!? That’s just life after cancer. Your new normal.
So after remission, you’ll have your cancerversary, the day that your world took a turn for the crazy, and you were diagnosed.
- January 28, 2016 was mine. February/March were extremely hard months for me, one year later. It forces you to realize what you’ve been through, how far you’ve come, and how much can change in one year. I had crazy anxiety and actually anxiety attacks thinking about it. Like my NP friend told me at my last chemo, the first year is the most difficult. Expect it.
So how do we get past this? Some people just don’t.
- I’ve seen girls who are unfortunately so traumatized by what happened to them, that it’s made them so angry and hate the world. To the point where they are hurtful to other survivors/fighters and bully them, and that’s their way of feeling better about themselves…by tearing other people apart. It’s their way of dealing with what they’ve been through, and I honestly feel so horribly for them that this experience has made them so angry. Some people just don’t see the lessons in life. I feel that there is a reason for everything that happens to you, and cancer teaches you to be strong, and not take any minute for granted, or hold on to hate or anger. However, I’m still working on the part where not everyone will have the same heart as me–because I often get frustrated with people and just say bye, because I expect them to treat me the way that I treat them. Unfortunately, that’s just life and it’s not going to happen.
Here’s my perspective on life after cancer: just freaking live. I know what it’s like to not be able to work, and spend a year getting cut open, poisoned, and burned alive. You do too. I’d like to hope that this is it for that chapter of my life. I’m also very realistic and realize that I could relapse at any time. I also realize that since my chemo and radiation were so intense, there is a possibility that I could even develop another cancer. But, at the end of the day..life is crazy. You could get hit by a bus or get into a car accident or a plane crash tomorrow. We don’t know what life has in store for us. No joke, I actually almost got hit by a bus when I was getting out of my car a few weeks ago. I just thought to myself cool, so Cancer didn’t kill me, but that bus could have.
So what do you do? LIVE. Just live. Do everything that you want to do now. Take chances. Take risks. You don’t want to look back on your life and think of all of the things that you wanted to do, but didn’t. I’m all about doing whatever I want, whenever I want, and taking any opportunity that I get. I’m also known to book last minute trips to other countries and just not care. The world is such a big place, see the beauty in it, not all of the negative stuff.
- My territory for work expanded to Puerto Rico, and even though it’s part of he U.S. , it’s essentially kind of like a different country. People talk so bad about PR, and all I saw was the beauty in it. The people take such pride in their island, and not to mention it’s absolutely gorgeous. I fell in love with the people there, because of how much pride they take in being Puerto Rican. And they just live differently and with meaning. They don’t sweat the small stuff, they just live. When I went to Italy, it was the same thing. People just live, and stay present in the moment–they don’t worry about what’s going to happen next. They live for today, not tomorrow, and that’s the best advice I can give to you.
Remission isn’t easy, it’s really freaking hard. I get it. You just have to realize that you were given a second chance. Fall in love with life, with people. Once you realize that you only have one life, you start living it in a completely different way.