That being said, here are some things that they don't tell you about surviving cancer.
- Being a cancer survivor isn't the same as never having had cancer. I know that sounds silly, but it needs to be said. There is no "getting BACK to 'normal'" because "normal" is different post-cancer. For me, physically, I wanted my pre-cancer voice, my pre-cancer neck and throat. Emotionally, I wanted...gosh, I don't even know how to put this into words...I wanted my pre cancer life; I wanted to not freak out if my neck had a weird lump in it, if my voice acted funny, if I had a headache or if I had a nagging cough. I didn't want a migraine to warrant an MRI and CT to rule out a brain tumor. I didn't want to have chest x-rays every so many months to make sure that the cancer wasn't in my lungs. I didn't want my neck to be stiff and achy. I didn't want my voice to be hoarse.
- Fear is real, constant, and overwhelming. The biggest fears I had were of the treatments not killing all the cancer and of recurrence and metastasis. I imagine that these are not unique to me and that others may have more fears depending on their emotional state and their type of cancer. It really didn't have anything to do with whether or not I trusted God to take care of me. It wasn't an issue of faith. I knew God has everything under control, I just didn't (don't) want to go through all that again. It didn't matter that my fears were irrational. Even when I knew that I was being irrational, I could not just dismiss the fears. They had to be dealt with. Thankfully, Doc understood and prescribed meds to help me cope until my brain could recover. Another thing that I learned at this point in my journey is that the emotional, physical, and spiritual support so readily available to the cancer patient is not available to the cancer survivor.
- Well meaning people unknowingly heap on guilt and add to anxiety. For me, the worst thing I could hear was, "Well, at least you don't have cancer." Even now, I feel like this is dismissive of what I was experiencing at the time. Just because I no longer have cancer does not mean that I am not struggling. This little phrase hit my heart with "You should be more thankful. You are ungrateful for God's healing," which is so untrue. I was and am thankful to be healed, but healed is not the same as having never had cancer. Even today, I feel like this phrase and others similar to it were a dismissal of what I was going through at the time. I felt like, since I didn't have cancer anymore, I "should" not need support and that made me feel ...well...bad...because I DID need support. To almost every person who has not walked this road themselves, the battle ends when cancer treatments ends. They do not realize the need for emotional support, encouragement, and understanding post cancer.