CURE asked readers: Do you feel your family ever returned to "normal" after your treatment ended? If not, how has your normal changed?
After treatment, my children still have to deal with a mom who is tired most of the time and unable to do many activities that she used to do. We skipped camping this summer because I could manage work and household, nothing more. We also deal with scares on a regular basis. What if this symptom means the cancer is back? It changes communication among us because I don't want to see their reaction to my worries. The maintenance treatments and the constant medical appointments and tests to make sure everything is OK are not only time consuming and emotionally draining, but costly. Last year, a non-treatment year, medical costs were over $82,000. I am concerned that if I get laid off, I will lose my insurance. It also means I am not likely to retire any time soon, though I could. No, we are not "normal."
My breast cancer arrived at a very bad time, less than a year after my 17-year marriage ended. Other than two partial mastectomies, 36 radiation treatments, oral medication and a frozen shoulder, I had to focus on forging a new life for my daughter and me. As time passed, our new life came together nicely and, for her, with time and her move to college life, my breast cancer became a thing of the past—out of sight, out of mind. But for me, it lingers. I do not live in the shadow of cancer, but I feel the cancer diagnosis shadows me. Mammograms, self-examination and regular doctor visits keep me one or two steps ahead of it, but it is there none the less. I had cancer but cancer doesn’t have me.
My family changed in a good way most of the time. We tell each other “I love you” more often! The drawback is now whenever I get sick with anything, they (and sometimes I) automatically worry it could be cancer again. We do our best not to take each other for granted.
Shortly after my treatment for breast cancer ended, my aunt died of colon cancer and several years later my older brother lost his painful battle with pancreatic cancer. It has been three years now since my brother died, and I feel that as a family we all feel better about being normal again and curiously more comfortable with death and dying. Our normal now is spending as much time together as possible whereas before we were all busy living our own hectic lives; seeing each other only occasionally. I feel that our family is better able to focus on the "quality of life" we have together while we are still treading in this dimension, and unfortunately, cancer was the catalyst for that train of thought.
I didn't let my family change while I went through treatments. I put on a brave face and didn't really let them know how it affected my day-to-day living (four chemo and 30 radiation treatments). I, however, have changed tremendously. I respond more emotionally now. I'm more patient, and in some ways I'm more selfish.
I could tell my family returned to normal after my bilateral kidney cancer surgeries when the regular phone calls and personal visits scaled back to “normal” pre-cancer levels. My children and my siblings and I do not call each other regularly, but they called me a lot more during my recovery from surgery. I know they love me, and I also know the cancer had scared them a lot, but when they were assured I was fine the calls, visits, cards and emails went right back to the same level they were on prior to my diagnosis. I have no problem with this return to “normal.” The activity during my cancer experience served to verify something that I already knew in my head and in my heart, that they all loved me. They just opened up and showed it more outwardly during my cancer fight.
I thought it did, but after careful reflection, it really hasn't. While going through treatment the focus was getting through one day at a time and surviving. There were obvious changes such as losing 53 pounds and all my hair, but the ones that weren’t as obvious are those that still linger with both my wife and me. Our sexual relationship came to a halt while in treatment and has never returned. As a male, I blame myself because of the lack of energy and performance, but it goes much deeper than I can imagine or understand. Another issue is emotions from a financial aspect. When diagnosed I was self-employed and doing OK. After missing the better part of a year, I lost my business and took on a minimum paying job to try and get back my self-dignity. I am now working two jobs trying to get back to some sort of normality. It all takes a toll on our relationship and self esteem. I use to be confident in my actions, today I continuously question myself.