Anticipating Life On The Outside
To someone on the outside, I bet it makes sense that going through the rigorous treatment for cancer would be the hardest part of a diagnosis. Getting the diagnosis is earth shattering and the following treatment is no walk in the park. Hospital stays, surgery, radiation rays through the skin. Yeah, on the outside that doesn’t sound fun at all.
But from the time of my diagnosis, I’ve been on a focused path of being cancer-free again. I stopped going to work and instead woke up every day with only one job to do – get healthy again.
But what happens when I am healthy again? For six months, my life has been going to appointments, taking pills, dealing with fatigue and illness, and of course, walking the dog. But when the cancer is gone and I get a clear bill of health, how am I going to jump back into “normal” life as a citizen of the world again? I haven’t even been inside a shopping mall for six months!
In my opinion, being told you’re cancer-free is arguably harder than the initial diagnosis itself. With cancer I was told what to expect, but I have no idea what to expect of life post-cancer. Even as my hair grows back, the chemo fog lifts, and the fatigue slowly melts away, will I ever feel truly healthy again? There will always be a looming scan in the future and fear of hearing another diagnosis from a doctor’s lips.
Currently I am in this weird waiting period between my last chemo and a scan checking in on its effect. The scan will either show lingering cancer the doctors will want to radiate, or show no signs of cancer and I get to skip out of the hospital cancer-free once again.
But waking up cancer-free knowing what it’s like to wake up with cancer is not as relieving and joyous as it sounds. Especially in the first few months as my body slowly recovers and I learn to adjust back to my old life. As I adjust to being a girl in her 20’s again instead of that sick girl who watches too many movies.
I remember driving home from the hospital after being chained to an IV pole in the oncology ward for a month. It is so, so weird to be stuck inside one building for that amount of time. Kind of what I imagine jail to be like. Even though I was in my hometown the whole time, as I drove toward my house, it all felt so strange and foreign. My house was the same, but I was walking through it differently with a whole new perspective.
As I come closer to my cancer-free date, I feel very similar. Although this time I’ve been free to move around, it’s as if the news will allow me to step outside this bubble I’ve been living in for six months. In some ways it will be a refreshing breath of fresh air. In other ways, it will also feel so strange and foreign. The world will certainly look a lot different, and that can be scary.
I am not trying to be poetic here. In all seriousness, the first thing I’m doing when I’m cancer-free is walking into a bar and ordering a drink.
And then another.