Updated: Sep 5, 2019
I am coming into my 1 year check up and I am still amazed at the reaction it causes in me. A week before my 6 month CT scan I started to notice I felt strange. I wasn’t aware of what was causing it. If you were to ask me if I was scared of cancer coming back I could have honestly answered no. I truly wasn’t worried it would come back because I felt confident I had been taking proper care of myself. Even when I would stop and consciously think about how I would feel if the cancer came back I was not worried. I feel so confident that I can handle whatever is thrown at me and that I can beat it again if the worst case scenario happened. Still I had this looming feeling I couldn’t quite understand.
As the day before my scan came closer this feeling became stronger. I felt fucking crazy. My emotions were all over the place to the point of feeling antisocial and I removed myself from people. Still, cancer wasn’t on my mind. It wasn’t until I got into the hospital and stepped into the oncology department that it really dawned on me how intense this feeling was. I felt like a caged animal, like the lion who paces back and forth in it’s small cage while everyone stares at it. I wanted to explode out of the room. I wanted to flip the tables over and scream and run out of the hospital. Glimpses were coming into my mind of jumping out of a window or that nightmare where you look up and see a car coming at you head on and then you wake up right as you make impact.
After the scans were done I was drinking a smoothie with a friend who came with me. I could barely hold a conversation. I simply made that stupid face you make when you make eye contact with someone in passing that you don’t really know. It was like what she was saying was coming in and out of focus and I would realize halfway through a sentence she had been talking to me. I would just shake my head and say I can’t think right now. She understood and just allowed me to be close.
I got the results within hours when I was expecting it to be days. Immediately all this chaos went away and I fully understood the level of stress I had been feeling. My stomach had been in knots and I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath no matter how deeply and consciously I was breathing. My body was in pain the way it feels after you have been in a car accident while your adrenaline is still pumping and your brain hasn’t fully understood how bad of shape you are in. All of these feelings were in retrospect after they had subsided. I was happy and excited, smiling ear-to-ear and ready to celebrate. Leaving the hospital I hopped on the back of a friend’s scooter and I stretched my arms out in victory as we rode down the road.
Even with this previous experience and my awareness of my own thoughts, starting the day with my morning practice, surrounding myself with supportive friends and allowing myself to feel all these emotions there is still something animalistic deep inside that wants to get out. I feel just slightly outside the limits of my own control. Again, I sit in quiet and attempt to be as aware and honest with what I’m truly feeling. In this moment I felt no fear when I thought of them possibly saying it was back. The week before this I had my colonoscopy and they had to biopsy a lump they found that ended up just being residual swelling from radiation. Now I know the area where I had previously had cancer showed no signs of recurrence and even tested negatively but I felt absolutely no relief from this insanity. I intentionally try to find the thing that is causing this response.
I go step by step through how tomorrow will go. Waking up with an empty stomach and avoiding breakfast, riding to the hospital, parking, walking in and giving them my information, going to the oncology department, taking vitals, being connected to an IV, going into the CT machine, getting out and waiting for results. None of it bothers me individually. In this moment I don’t want to be me. I want to cancel the appointment and somehow trick my brain into forgetting this ever happened. Bring me that light from Men In Black that erases my memory and I’ll just live blissfully in ignorance for the rest of my life.
I can only continue to be aware of how I’m feeling and search for what helps. This check up is easier than 6 months ago but still outside of my understanding. I am proud of the progress I’ve made but know there is still so much room for improvement. I refuse to accept it as “just the way it is”. I want to go deeper into how I’m feeling not just for myself but for those who I interact with.
There was always this disconnect with how I was feeling and how people perceived me while still in treatment. If I don’t get better with understanding my feelings I can’t improve my communication. Without communication it’s very easy for those close to me to be blindsided by my responses. I wanted so desperately to have others understand that yes, this morning I went for a jog and posted a picture of me smiling but just before that I cried until I threw up. As soon as I got done with that jog I got a call from insurance and they aren’t going to cover my last surgery. That 5 minutes before they came to talk to me I had a recurring pain that I was terrified was life threatening and my doctors didn’t listen to me when I told them about it the last 2 times it happened. That there is so much more going on that they didn’t see. That me snapping or being emotional when they said something I took as insensitive was not so much about that one comment but about the 200 things that happened to me earlier that day I was trying to suppress. They were just the final straw. That even that negative response I had was subdued from how I really wanted to respond. That cancer is not fought day by day or hour by hour but, at times, second by second.
Cancer didn’t end the day I was told I am in remission. It’s something I feel that if I don’t continue to improve in my understanding and communication of, it will continue to feel like a life sentence. I still believe that there will be a day where it doesn’t have this control over me. On that day I will feel truly free of cancer. Until that day comes I will continue to fight that mother fucker. It will not outlast me.