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Musings from a stage IV cancer survivor.

National Cancer Survivors Day 2022

Originally published for NurseGrown Organics 

Cancer Survivors, today is our day! We should celebrate!

Or should we? Is it safe to celebrate yet? Is it too soon? Would we be getting our hopes up, only to be let down if that tumor returns?

When transitioning from cancer patient to cancer survivor, the path to feeling “safe” enough to celebrate is a confusing one. Within the first year of completing treatment, anxiety and depression are experienced by 18-20% cancer survivors (Francisco, 2021). However, based on my conversations with other survivors, I feel like the incidence of post-cancer anxiety and depression is much higher.

I, too, was depressed.

I didn’t understand it because as a stage 4 cancer survivor, I literally escaped death and was given a second chance. Logically speaking, I should be rejoicing, shouting “Hallelujah” from the mountaintops.

But I couldn’t. At least not immediately.

During the transition from patient to survivor, other things happened emotionally that I wasn’t prepared for.

Part of it was fear that everything was going to make the cancer return again. My heart would pound with any whiff of second hand smoke. I almost quit my job because of it. Was I drinking the right water? Was it properly pH balanced? Potentially toxic shampoos, meats, and non-organic foods were everywhere and I was scared.

During the transition from patient to survivor, other things happened emotionally that I wasn’t prepared for. You see, when I was fighting cancer, all my other life problems went away. My sole focus was survival and survival alone. I didn’t work. I didn’t date. I didn’t get involved with family drama. I let some bills slide. When fighting cancer, I viewed life through a tiny tunnel with the light of survival at the end. All that mattered was getting through the narrow, rocky passage to the other side.

While fighting cancer, I made it a point to be mentally as strong as steel. I had built walls around my emotions to maintain fight mode. Once the cancer disappeared, I had to figure out how to let the walls down and be a regular vulnerable human.

And then I was tired of being depressed; Tired of being afraid. I realized that fear wasn’t going to make me live longer regardless of if the cancer returned or not. Therefore, I better live every day to the fullest and do everything I want to do while I still can.

I don’t know how much time I have left, but I do know I have today. And I am grateful for every tear, every fight, and every stressful moment that comes.

Cancer survivors near and far, HAPPY NATIONAL CANCER SURVIVORS DAY! Today IS our day!

And as a matter of fact, EVERY day is our day! References: Francisco, J. (2021, Mar 18). Depression after cancer. Roswell Park.

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