Don't get me wrong. I am relieved that I am cancer-free. I have a second chance at life. However, in the last week I have slowly begun to come down from the high of the good news. I am learning how to cope with my new reality. My goals have been revised and shifted. No longer must I live in "survival mode." I was able to rid my body of cancer. I won that battle. Now I have a new battle to fight: keeping the cancer away forever.
When I was diagnosed a few months ago, I daydreamed about the day I would become cancer-free. I thought that I would live off the high from the good news forever. Now that I am free of cancer, I can confidently say that it is not possible. I hit the halfway mark in my treatment, and instead of celebrating, I am unquestionably dreading these next few months. I am sick and tired of chemo. I hate how it zaps my energy for a week, makes me nauseous, and makes me feel as though I have no control over my body.
I want to feel healthy again with only an occasional bad day. Is that too much to ask?
Every day I am struggling both physically and mentally. People may assume that once you are cancer-free, all is well. This could not be farther from the truth. To explain this point, I am going to quote my incredible cousin, Colleen, who has gracefully shown me how it's possible to make the best of a cancer diagnosis.
"I don't think people realize how much cancer really sucks even when you're cured and cancer-free. Being cured is wonderful, but it doesn't end there. People undergo follow-up surgeries, chemo, radiation, or drugs with terrible side-effects...and those are only the physical aspects. The emotional component is far more challenging."
It's important that we immerse ourselves in her words. Cancer-free does not mean pain-free. It does not mean worry-free. It certainly does not mean stress-free. It means that a new journey is taking form; a journey that might take the rest of your life to accept.
Anyways, back to the point about struggling. Physically, the chemo is taking its toll on my body. Mentally, the chemo is shaking me to my core. I am strikingly frustrated. I am making a firm attempt to come to terms with my new diagnosis. My mind is cluttered with questions that do not have answers yet. I want to know why this happened to me at 20. I want to know how to prevent this from happening again.
I hope I have made it clear that even though I am cancer-free, my life is not all rainbows and butterflies. I am not here to sugar-coat things for you; that would be hypocritically insincere of me. Every day I face new challenges. I will do everything in my power to get through these next 3 months and then face a lifetime of new challenges. If only I could travel in time to see how this will shape my future. One thing that I am fairly certain of is that my best is yet to come.
Stay tuned, folks.
All my love,
Hi, I'm Lia. I have Hodgkin's lymphoma, but Hodgkin's lymphoma does not have me.