Perhaps… Just Perhaps
Surviving breast cancer has it’s own set of challenges, hurdles, and set-backs. Your body has changed. Your mindset is altered. Your courage is challenged, almost daily, because you can never truly let go of the fear and the angst. You learn to function with it always being present. You learn to control it. You re-teach yourself how to live in a normal capacity on a daily basis. But your normal is not what it once was.
A friend of mine, who has been traversing his own cancer journey these past 2 years, recently emailed me. In the body of his email he stated “I don’t know that I will ever really be able to put it behind me as the whole experience is a part of who I am now.” And he is right. There is so much truth in his revelation. I sat with that, all day, all night. It resonated with me, and it got me to thinking: perhaps – just perhaps – we aren’t really supposed to put it behind us. Perhaps we are just supposed to journey onward, learning to share space with it, learning to respect the power and intricacies of life, and learning a new normal. It’s not necessarily harmful. It is merely accepting what has happened without the pressure of needing to get over it. Why must we get over it? It changed us. It altered us. It affected our loved ones. It’s okay to face that reality and it’s definitely okay to accept that the whole experience is a part of who you now are.
Indicators of time – the start of a new year, anniversaries, and seasons – the significance of these moments alter because there are new anniversaries that are imbedded deep into your memory. They are the cancerversaries, and they are just as relevant and affecting as all other anniversaries and indicators of time. For every scan or mammogram that you have, your mind returns to that dark and frightening unknown. The smell of the room, the sounds and the touch of the machines, all evoke the fear, uncertainty, and angst of that moment in time when cancer was found… this is scanxiety. And though it is a word that even I had never heard of until just recently, it holds true. Scanxiety is the worry associated with imaging, and it’s the underlying fear of cancer returning. In my reading, I have learned that it can induce responses similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a real thing. And I’ve suffered it.
Knowing this, and being able to label the anxiety I have felt during every scan, mammogram, and biopsy post-cancer, gives me affirmation for the emotional journey I’ve embarked on since my diagnosis in 2015. It makes my anxiety feel validated. It makes me feel less alone. It gives me the opportunity to accept that this is another speed bump in my journey. This is another part of the reality that a cancer survivor learns to accept. This is another moment where inner strength and resilience shines through. This is another moment where we learn to survive.
It is okay to accept that the whole experience is a part of who you now are. The emotional journey you embark on post-cancer lasts years beyond diagnosis and treatment. It is the journey that no one sees and often no one talks about. But is so important to talk, to share, and to listen. By doing so, by acknowledging your journey, your ups and your downs, you are not giving power to the fear, the angst, the epoch that is cancer. Instead, you are healing, you are accepting, and perhaps – just perhaps – you are finding your inner peace.
Perhaps… Just Perhaps. Published by Crystal Joy Hall