How I Get Through Cancer Survivorship When the Dark Days Take Over

While a recent health scare ruined a family vacation, I vowed to keep making plans and always look ahead to brighter days.

When you are battling cancer, you will experience many kinds of days. The initial diagnosis day is a tough one. Hopefully, you have a support person with you to hear the things you may miss as your brain is in disbelief with the news.

Your oncologist may put you at ease helping you through the difficult information, and hopefully they will listen and answer questions. And if you are lucky, you will leave there with a plan. You may not like the plan, but for some cancer types, there is no time to lose, and you must start treatment. Others may be able to wait.

There are days that are good as well. Sometimes you hear things like you are in remission, your CT scan is clear, your blood test results are good, and maybe even a doctor saying, “I don’t need to see you for six months.”

Then, there are the days that change everything. Diagnosis day is the first day that is hard.

Nine years ago, my cancer was diagnosed, and since then, I have had three surgeries, four bouts of chemotherapy and two rounds of radiation. I am currently a patient in a trial for my cancer treatment.

But despite difficulties, such as cancer changing how I look, at this point in my journey I can say there are more good days than bad ones. I hope that other patients can recognize their good days, too.

They may be simple in nature, happening when you look outside and see the plants in the beds waking up after winter, robins in the trees making nests, longer days with sunshine, the beautiful sight of autumn leaves, and the very first snowflake. These days are unpretentious, but unbelievably important for the patient to recognize and experience.

While the good days currently outweigh the bad, I still have times when I struggle. This past week, my dark day took over. I tried to remain positive, but sadness won. I cried. I had a health scare that changed events in my life. While I think we have a solution to my health issue, the whole experience made me sad, not for me but for my husband.

We had scheduled a well-deserved vacation months ago to visit family and ski out West. We had to work around dates of treatment, plane tickets and weather. I was to fly out sooner than my husband so I could spend time with my grandchildren. I made it out West and three days later, I had to come home for a medical emergency. My husband never made the trip as he had to take me to the hospital. The cancer ruined our vacation.

We wanted to continue making new memories with grandchildren and family and ski down the mountain together. It did not happen. We spent the day in the hospital and tried to figure out what was happening. Believe me, skiing with our grandchildren would have been a better memory.

But life goes on. My issue is under control and my husband has been stellar as my best friend, even though his vacation was compromised. Being honest, I have terrible guilt that I ruined his time on the mountain, but he could not have been more supportive throughout this whole week.

So, this begs the question: How do you move on from a dark day? You just do. You try to remain positive and look ahead to better days. It is important not to dwell on the dark day.

You must also make plans for the days ahead. It may be a mini vacation like an overnight stay or long weekend. It may be a weeklong beach trip. You must not stop making plans. You must live your life to the fullest.

This girl shed a few tears this week, but I have moved on from the dark day. I will not let it take any more of my precious time.

I am so blessed to be able to continue planning our next ski trip if the snow does not melt, taking the next bike ride on trails in Ohio, spending time in North Carolina to see my oldest granddaughter graduate from high school, and a beach vacation in the fall with my husband.

This girl is one lucky girl. I will celebrate it every day.

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