Survivorship

As a cancer survivor, I was actually sent to a class called “Survivorship – Learning to Live Beyond Breast Cancer.”

Are you kidding me? I wish I was. For me it was just over an hour sitting in a doctor’s office with a Registered Nurse going over the same literature that I had already gone over a hundred times in the previous two years…I’m sure that there are patients who choose to not read the literature…then again, those patients are not going to likely hear anything said in a meeting that I am sure could have taken over two hours had I not asked her to skip over most of it.

So what does living beyond cancer mean to me? Well, I guess you will get to witness the progression but this is what it means for me at this stage:

  • I take a pill every day that causes extreme joint pain in my hips and knees.
    • My options are to take a medication to relieve the pain or to stop the medicine.
      • Stopping the medicine can decrease my number of disease free years.
      • Taking Tylenol (the drug of choice of my doctors) can lead to liver damage.
  • Every time I cough more than once, I worry that something might be developing.
    • Every time I choose to not go to the doctor for such events produces some anxiety that I am letting something grow inside me.
  • Nobody will ever know how scared I get when it comes to doctors appointments.
    • I choose to go to the doctor alone because I need to process my feelings in real time. Having another person there puts me in protection mode. I will literally bury my feelings and allow the other person to process the information and care for THEIR needs before my own.
    • I cannot imagine sitting beside somebody I love and joking one minute (because you know we would be…right Melora) then hearing, “It’s back” the next.
  • I still have an implanted medical device, my power port, and I’m not sure if I should keep it or get rid of it.
    • I no longer need it as I am finished with infusions.
    • I have to have it flushed every six weeks.
    • I am scared that if I get rid of it I am jinxing myself.

These are a few of the finer points beyond breast cancer.

I already know my days are numbered by God and that nothing the doctors or I do will change that. All my life I never worried about how many days I had. Now I truly understand that life on earth is not infinite.

Almost eight years ago there was a life changing event. At that time I began learning to live in the moment as opposed to filled with anxiety about the future and choices myself and other people made.

That event changed me. It solidified the drive in me to give my kids every ounce of me, every chance I get because the days of their youth are so limited. I decided at that time to never go into debt for material things. I wanted to have the flexibility to be able to take time from work, to not work a zillion hours just to cover credit card payments.

I learned to live with very little and that decision and the generosity of friends got us through the last couple of years in one piece. My plan now is to return to work at the school. Working in the school system gives me the freedom to have holidays off with my boys, weekends off with my boys, and summers to spend making memories, not paying for daycare.

When I became a mom, I had no intention of ever being a working mother. I wanted only to be home with my kiddos. Although divorce changed the circumstances, it does not mean I have to work more than necessary. The kids are getting older and I now have a grandchild as well; my priority is leading them to Christ and filling their lives with love and faith.

We don’t need much, we need God, each other, and our community.

Whether I live five years or 50, I will not be on my death bed wishing I had spent more time with my loved ones.

So although the thought of cancer will likely always be a whisper in the back of my mind, it will never take over my life. I wonder if when cancer takes over every aspect of a person’s life it makes it more difficult to move forward to survivorship.

Continuing to coach hockey, spend a ton of time with my kids, and being involved with my church meant I didn’t have to start life all over again when treatments were finished because it never really stopped; it just took a detour down a very scenic road.

A few of the women I’ve met along this journey are also rocking this survivorship gig. There are days we struggle, we would have had those days with or without cancer. We are all living our best lives each and every day.

That’s how I do beyond cancer. I’m a survivor, a warrior, a NEVER-GIVE-UPPER. You can be too.

 

 

 

 

 

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