Melissa Rieke Photography
Life After Colon Cancer
Kansas City Colon Cancer Survivor
(let me just give you the heads up…I may ramble a bit!)
It has been a minute or two since I have posted any blogs about my journey thru cancer. I thought in 2016 I would share a bit more about the after math of a cancer diagnosis and surviving. When I was first diagnosed I was in shock…obviously. Then I was mad, and convinced I wasn’t sick. I didn’t want to hear stories from others about a person they knew who had the same thing, because….I wasn’t sick. After I got the all clear in December of 2014 I did start reading more posts, talking to more people and being just slightly more involved. At first it seems tearfully joyous, like you just want to kiss anyone you see and share the great news with them…and trust me I did. I still kind of take any opportunity I get to tell people about my beating Cancer. Not for the sympathy…but you never know when you will meet a fellow survivor, or someone that just got diagnosed and needs a hug or to see there is another side of this.
It’s a whole new world when you are given the all clear. When I started reading more and research more after I was cleared, I think I was reaching out trying to find someone, something, anything to relate to, anyone who could help me figure out why I was feeling the way I was. I never expected the year AFTER to be harder than the year OF cancer. I will say I was probably depressed. My doctors told me what I was feeling was similar to PTSD and that it was completely normal and that I was doing great. I didn’t feel normal or great, I felt out of control, sad, scared, mad, confused, and afraid to plan anything much past the date of my next blood work appointment. I saw a therapist a few times to try to talk thru some things, etc. etc. I was very reluctant to go on meds, although at times I do think it would have probably been a wise choice. My anxiety would take over and pretty much shut me down.
As we all know…and a friend who was recently diagnosed put it into some great words to me this week, “no matter what – time keeps going. Even if it feels fast or slow, it moves just the same. Tomorrow will come!” The world keeps spinning and the majority of the world does not see or expect any change from you. It’s hard for them to understand why you aren’t happy and living every moment with a smile on your face. It’s not that I am/was not happy, I was confused and scared and didn’t feel like this was my own skin that I was living in. My body had failed me…this thing came out of left field and slapped me across the face. Besides some back trouble, I had always been able to count on my body to hold up for me…to get me thru. Cancer was the last thing I expected, and now it was something I didn’t go an hour without thinking about.
Who am I now? I am not the same person, but I am not a different person. I have some different thoughts on how I want to live my life now, but how do I do that? How do I pay all of these medical bills yet still carve out that time to be a more available wife and mother and friend. Where did my creativity go? I used to have 100 ideas a day…now I can’t think of one…OMG…who am I? How will I keep this business going, what if I get sick again? A million things go thru my head every day. Somedays are great and I don’t think about Cancer much at all. But most days it is the #1 thing on my mind.
So I decided I would share a bit more . Maybe its helpful to someone else. Maybe you are starting your AFTERMATH and you are being hard on yourself because you think everyone expects you to just be YOU again. (and a little bit they do) DON’T be so hard on yourself. Give yourself some time…don’t push yourself. I was told it will take twice as long for the chemo to leave your system as it took to go in. I have found that to be pretty true…which was about 10 months for me. I was done with Chemo in November and I felt like I hit my “new” stride in September. Don’t get me wrong…I still have some bad days…but they don’t last a week…and I understand them more and allow myself to have them.
Last week my brain was on FIRE…I was cranking out ideas left and right…idea for NEXT CHRIStMAS season even (a year away!). I was so excited I felt like the old me. This lasted for about 2 days…and then SCANXIETY hit like a brick, and my mind couldn’t focus on future, or ideas, or anything important. I had been keeping myself busy the last few weeks, avoiding thinking about my upcoming routine tests. I knew my appointment with my oncologist Dr. Reddy at the Shawnee Mission Medical Center was on the 12th…but I tried to shove that in the back of my mind. Last week I knew they would be calling to schedule tests…I just put my head down and kept busy. Luckily I had 3 of the sweetest little newborns to photograph and keep my mind in the happy zone! Well Friday hit and I could feel it coming on. I was a little on edge all thru the weekend. I did things like Built a Wall in the studio (yes an 8ft tall 16ft long ship lap wall…love), I shopped and created my Valentines set, made kids tent, sewed the cover, made buntings, etc. etc. Just to stay busy…and creating things, building, painting, sewing (if you call it that I am not so great at it)…all things that calm me down.
Monday came. I went to SMMC and had 3 tests scheduled. They were great and fast, I was only there for 2 hours and had an MRI, CT scan and blood work. I had to have IV dye contrast for both scans…and they were so nice to leave the IV in so I didn’t have to get poked multiple times. AWESOME! Then the waiting began…and here are my tips to get thru that…
This “wait” I have been keeping very busy!! I was lucky to get my scan day and doctor day back to back so I didn’t have to wait. Typically my schedule doesn’t land so nicely and I am waiting a week before I hear results. After scans yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend. We don’t get to see each other often…so when we do it is typically a long lunch with lots to say! It is always great to get my mind off of the wait…or talk about it if I need to. It just so happened that our last two lunches were randomly scheduled for test day…so it has worked out perfect. I am hoping to make it my “routine”. After that I went on the shopping hunt for a Ski coat. Have you ever shopped for a ski coat? Well…lets just say I was WAY over thinking it…BUT…it has kept my mind busy for weeks now…so I am not going to knock. Even if you don’t buy..the hunt is its own special therapy! I have also been in contact with several of my fellow survivors over the last weeks. It helps to have them by your side because they “get it”!
So off I go…my appointment is in 2 hours, but first Lunch with my Ernie…clinging to my favorite to get me thru! I expect all good results of course!
Stage IIIa Colon Cancer Survivor
Diagnosed at 35
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