For a minute, I need to be honest and not bouncing around with streamers of cheerfulness and happy-go-lucky commentary. At this stage of being a cancer survivor (still praising the Lord), I am confronted with some unpleasant truths.
The fight is not over. Forgive me for this pessimism, but I think I should say it for those feeling the same… side effects. You are not alone nor should you dismiss the struggles you are going through as petty.
For those of you who are the support system for your surviving loved one, BLESS YOU! However, your support, love and understanding are still very much needed.
I am not a doctor or psychologist; I am simple speaking from my own experience as a cancer survivor.
It’s been about 9 years since I had my last treatment of chemo and radiation. I was 16. It seems that most everyone, including family, forgot the horrible things I went through to stay alive.
I am just now confronting the fact that the chemo, radiation and other medications have long-term side effects. Yes, yes, I know those were discussed briefly with me and my mother, perhaps we dismissed them in our state of shock and panic? Denial? Obviously, living my life is well worth the side effects.
I am not saying the doctors did not do a good job, on the contrary. UCSF & Dr. Goldsby are AMAZING!
I am saying years down the road, I am being confronted with issues I need support to get through. Even if your survivor does not want to talk about it, tell them you are there for them. PERIOD. Encourage checkups or at least regular doctor visits.
They don’t always have to do the whole shebang with the CT scan, five different blood tests and personal space invasions. Again, I am not a doctor, but know I avoid doctors all together now because I don’t want to go through the whole shebang.
Now, I look back and wish I had caught on earlier that my thyroid was totally screwed up BEFORE I jumped 8 sizes. Now the weight so hard to lose! At this point, I am just happy to stay the same size and not get any bigger.
Chemical sensitivity or enhanced allergies –whatever you want to call it, and periods that never want to cooperate with medication are a couple other struggles I am now linking back to my medical history.
Oh, and my favorite. Those ugly, wicked black hairs that appear on my face from the steroids I had to take. It does not sound like a big deal, BUT IT IS TO ME!
I even tried laser hair removal with no luck. In an effort to make light of it, I use those little black hairs as a way of telling who will be a good boyfriend or not. The way they react when I ask them to pluck them tells me all I need to know. Willing/unwilling? Nice about it/hurtful about it? (Sorry had to laugh)
My mental health and demeanor seem to have made some changes too. My mom even goes as far as to say it was a totally personality change. She says this jokingly, but face it peeps. If you were worried about getting cancer again, passing on the cancer to your future kids or having to deal with these side effects long term, you might struggle emotionally too. Again, BE SUPPORTIVE. Don’t pass judgment on someone who just wants a shoulder to cry on or see a doctor. No matter how long ago it was or how unrealistic you may think their concern is.
Great Example: Some of you probably just read my concern for genetically passing cancer on to my kids and are already gearing up to argue with me.
It does not matter if I am right or wrong, it is on my heart. SO you would say to your loved one “sweetheart, you are a wonderful person and would pass along many wonderful traits to your children. If that is what is keeping you from having kids, let’s meet with your doctor and talk about your concern.” Or simply “I am sorry you feel that way. I am here for you whatever you decide.”
I hope this helps those in the post-glamour stage of being a survivor or a survivor supporter.