After treatment ends, survivors are left to navigate a new life but that life comes with its new emotions and reactions to the world around us.
Well after treatment ends, we all have those moments that take us back to our cancer journey.
Hearing we have cancer and then going through treatment always leaves us with triggers that can take us back to specific moments of our cancer journey. Some of those moments we seem to share, such as when a celebrity or well-known person is diagnosed. I always get a call or two around these well-publicized events when friends want to talk about similarities and differences in the newly publicized diagnosis.
There are also those moments connected to our senses. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer five years after I was, I wanted to be there for her especially since we shared an oncologist. But when we walked into the reception area the odor of the drugs from the treatment area hit me so hard, I had to fight nausea.
I had planned to keep her mind involved while she was getting the IV but found I physically couldn’t. She also got a new antiemetic that had come into use in the five years between our diagnosis, so when we went home, she ate dinner while I turned various shades of green and tried not to throw up. At one point I found that if I drove toward the hospital and its tower of rooms I would have to turn around and go home.
Probably my strongest reaction to something physical is when I have to give blood or get an IV.
I have terrible veins and have to use my left arm due to lymphedema in my cancer side. If the nurse doesn’t show great confidence and doesn’t hit the vein at the first stick, I become a bear, snarling and demanding that someone who knows what they are doing take over. I am not proud of my reaction, but I also have no control over it. To keep it from happening I now discuss it with the nurse prior to his or her initial stick, recommending they find the nurse who is known for hard sticks. It has saved some nasty moments.
As far as dates go, many of my breast cancer friends have difficulty with their diagnosis date, building rituals around it and, in one instance, taking a week to go alone on some kind of retreat. The date of my diagnosis in October doesn’t bother me. But Easter and spring make me think and feel sadness and the promise of new life all at the same time.
No matter how much I have analyzed it, there is no logic, so I just accept that from sometime in March through Easter there will be more tears than usual and a constant remorse at what cancer took from me.