Updated: 16 hours ago
You've gotten over the diagnosis and overcame the torture of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation. You have scars, and your hair is growing back. Doctors are telling you you are cancer free, no evidence of disease. What a relief! So... why aren't you celebrating?
Many of us think we should feel grateful, or be happy all the time, and feel lucky, and ready to swing back into our old life as soon as treatment is over. Sometimes it's our families and friends who make us feel like we should move on, already. But it's not really that easy, is it? Cancer isn't a journey that ends when you right the bell; nor does it end at remission. You can't really forget about it and move on, like you would with a bad break up or a negative job experience. Cancer can shake your foundation, and rebuilding takes time and effort.
Plus, there are long-term consequences to deal with. Parts of our bodies might be missing or not working well, and in a lot of cases, our lifestyle follows a strict new regimen. Treatments leave our bodies spent and reeling with pain and toxins that we struggle to get rid of. So many of us live in pain and discomfort for months, years or even a lifetime after that. It's normal to be tired even long after treatments are done.
It changes your brain, so it changes you.
But why is it easier to be compassionate about the battle our bodies just waged than about the one fought by our hearts and minds?
The fight against cancer isn't just a body fight, and neither is the path to recovery. We engage in this journey with our whole being. It's only natural to be transformed by it. It's only normal that we would question our values and want to focus on new, more important things after such an experience.
That process is a part of healing too. It can be overwhelming, but it comes bearing gifts of tremendous value, I promise.
So... where to begin?
1. Attune to yourself, your thoughts and feelings. Are they different from before? What's already changed in the way you see yourself in the world, and what would you change now? Remember that change doesn't need to come with conflict. If you go slow, any transition can even be pleasant.
2. Be kind with yourself. Give yourself the permission to feel what you feel for as long as you need. Don't remove or negate your anger, fear or pain just because you think you "should" be alright. All of this comes with precious information about who the new you is, you just need to listen.
3. Create community with someone or a group of people who can hold your life's story with open compassion. It's not just about relating events, it's about sharing our deep vulnerability, our true humanity, with others. Good relationships can help us heal.
Remember that if you need support, a listening ear is always near.
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