When you’re newly diagnosed, the mountain that looms before you seems too great to climb and too heavy to carry. The barrage of information, statistics, choices and decisions seems endless, yet by the grace of God, you navigate your way through. Treatments begin and, hopefully, the mountain begins to shrink.
I remember during my year long (monthly) treatment cycle settling in and feeling a sense of safety. There was a degree of comfort in knowing that, even thought there was a serious battle going on inside me and it was incredibly draining at times, everything was manageable; in control. Perhaps it was the comfort I got talking to other cancer warriors, knowing I was not alone in my battle. For me, the ‘future’ was tomorrow or the next monthly treatment. My focus became narrow and short-term. While I did have long term goals and dreams, I realized just how important getting through one day at a time was. Too often we find ourselves so focused on some distant goal or dream that we forget to give today the proper focus and attention.
So as I settled in to the ‘comfort’ of these monthly cycles and became friends with many new people who, like me, were battling or had battled cancer. We shared war stories and developed a kind of ‘kinship’ in that we’d ‘been there, done that’. I remember a friend talking about how she battled post-treatment with a kind of PTSD. Every time she would start to get sick or feel a lump, she would panic at the thought of her cancer coming back. At that time (mid treatment) I couldn’t imagine myself in her shoes. Maybe I was naïve or over- confident, but in my mind, I just couldn’t imagine it happening to me.
Now here I am almost 3 years remission and fighting a new battle. Yup; you guessed it! The same fear that plagued my friend (and pretty much every cancer survivor ever) pops in and out of my life un-announced and un-invited. It’s kind of like that game “whack a mole”: I never know when or where it will pop up, but I try my hardest to smack it back down when it does!
I wish I could tell you the best way to deal with it, but I only know what helps me. When I feel myself going down that road, I speak up. I tell my wife that I am struggling and she is very good at praying with me or over me. She is the calm voice of reason that brings me great comfort. While it doesn’t make it totally go away, it helps me to accept and cope with the fact that I have been through a major life altering battle. My oncologist said that ‘remission’ doesn’t mean I’m ‘cured’ and that, someday, I will need treatment again. I wish that seed had never been planted, but it’s there and I need to deal with it. I hope and pray that, in time, these episodes will diminish, but in the meantime, narrowing my focus and learning to cope gets me back on track.