Melissa Rieke Photography
Life After Cancer
Stage 3a Colon Cancer Survivor
I’m going to get a little real today and talk about Life After Cancer.
There is a huge community gathered around you when you are diagnosed…family, friends, doctors, strangers, nurses…lots of people. Those people are all still there when you hear the words “YOU ARE CANCER FREE…GO LIVE YOUR LIFE”. If only it were that simple!
Life After Colon Cancer, or any cancer, isn’t what you would expect. As bad as you want…as much as you force yourself to see it…the Rainbows and Sunshine and Unicorns…they are hard to find!
I write this…only to let those of you NOT dealing with this to have a glimpse of what happens in our crazy heads (or at least mine). I also write this for those of you who are finishing up treatment because I wish I had found something like this to read. I wish I had not beat myself up…and gotten angry and frustrated with myself for the first 9 months after treatment before I decide to be KIND to myself…and let myself heal slowly!
HAPPINESS: You just got the words “Let’s be done..Done DONE…no more treatments…GO LIVE YOUR LIFE”. In all reality I thought I would hear “YOU ARE CANCER FREE” but I didn’t…and still haven’t…and I am not sure what to call it: NED (no evidence of disease), Cancer Free, Cured, Remission?
Anyway…I was Happy…I cried the big ugly Julia Roberts (even her ugly cry is pretty) ugly cry of Happiness! I danced around the treatment room..I couldn’t wait to surprise everyone with the news! The next day I got up went to work, because usually I would be stuck in bed, just to do nothing! I sat in the chair and thought about how wonderful it was that I was DONE. I began planning all the things I had to do. When I would start working out again, when I would get my business on track. How I would say “I’m giving myself until April to be 100%”, but secretly I knew I could do it by January…you know one month after I was done…ha!
Guilt: And then pretty much immediately after I felt Guilt. Why did I get to be done? Why do I get to live? Why do I not have many side effects? Why? I never asked WHY when I was diagnosed…but WHY ME weighed heavy on my heart when I “got” to survive. Survivors Guilt I guess.
Fear: It’s not the first time its the second time that will get me. I had this stuck in my head for so long. My fear was everywhere. I didn’t want to schedule clients out to far for FEAR it would come back and I would have to cancel again. I feared I wouldn’t be able to do my job well again. I feared my clients wouldn’t come back. I feared the cancer was growing in my toes, in my ears. Everywhere. I still struggle with the fear…its not as intense but its there. I find myself constantly trying to prepare things for when it comes back.
Joy: The Joy is there. I celebrate every milestone with Joy. Some days/moments I just feel Joy that the the Sky is soo blue and the clouds are so puffy and I am outside to see them and enjoy them. I feel JOy for silly things like making it thru a whole day without talking about Cancer. Or the first day I made it to 1 o’clock without once thinking about Cancer! I was in Boston to shoot a wedding with Beth my buiness partner over at Melissa and Beth. We had the morning to tour the city and had just been soaking it all in…and even though Beth isn’t a seafood lover (me neither but when in Rome)…she humored me and we went to the Barking Crab. It was an outdoor restaurant right on the water…it was a joyous day. I didn’t even think about Cancer until we sat down there to eat the the wind was blowing…and I thought..I could have never done this, experienced this…enJOYed this!
Lost: Who am I now? I am not who I was…but I am not different? Who am I suppose to be now? Which direction do I turn?
Anxiety: Wow! I have battled Anxiety before…maybe a little but nothing much at all. This anxiety is a whole other level. Fear of it coming back! Will my Clients return? How will I pay for all of this? I used to have 100 ideas a day…now I can’t think of anything? Will I ever be creative again? Maybe I never was? Pull it together Melissa…why are you so down on yourself?
The Anxiety was unexpected and I am still struggling. I manage it better now…if I feel it coming on strong I try to check myself…have I had enough rest? am I taking on too much? do I need candy ?(hey candy can help a lot)
Forgiveness: Life After Colon Cancer has made me much more forgiving. I forgive myself more…that is when I am not in the midst of my fear, guilt and anxiety phases…I forgive myself of those. I forgive others more…no one know how they would react in situations until you are in them. We also don’t always know what people are going thru. I try to feel both sides of the coin…and be more forgiving in my judgements. I TRY…I TRY…and I try to correct myself when I am wrong and admit it…and forgive.
Lonely: Life After Colon Cancer is lonely. Even when you live in a house with 3 kids and an awesome husband and have family all around you and wonderful friends! It’s lonely. I get tired of hearing myself talk about it and THINK about it…and I don’t want to put any more burden on my loved ones. They just spent a year of their lives fighting for me too! No one knows how you feel or what you are going thru. Its impossible to explain. My moods are all over the place and so is my mind so how COULD anyone possibly try to understand! It’s lonely to be a business owner and wonder if what you are doing is good enough, do people want it, will you get more clients again, are you going to be able to pay for all of this “life” stuff, where will it come from? It’s lonely to always wonder if that ping over there or that ache over here is something…forgive yourself Melissa its probably nothing.
In my experience with Life After Colon Cancer…the AFTER has been much harder than the during. During treatment you are fighting it…beating it…doing something. Your mind is focused on getting it done, getting it beat….WINNING. After it all hits you…like a truck! It is nothing like I expected.
I wanted to share one of my favorite books I received as a gift when my journey started. I am not a big reader but I LOVE quotes…so this book was the perfect gift for me! Not only is this book uplifting but it is also beautiful to look at!
I also enjoyed these two books even if I wasn’t battling the same cancers as them! Made me think about being more involved in my treatments and finding out what was truly the best option for me.
Colon Cancer Alliance – http://www.ccalliance.org/