The Price and Joy of Remission

A cancer survivor describes the mixed emotions she feels while in remission.

I was thrilled when my doctor told me recently I was still in remission. She stated not to question why, but just know and embrace it as a miracle. This was the best advice she could have ever given me.

I feel very humble because I have lost several family and friends to this horrible and insidious disease called cancer. But now I rejoice because there are so many projects I can finish. My book is almost ready to be published, I can contact many friends I did not see for months due to COVID-19, and I can finish projects around the house. I started going out more socially and continued my volunteer work.

Then I decided to declutter my apartment. I spent several exhausting days ridding out drawers, cupboards and bookshelves. I would take my dog outside frequently since it is summertime and being 17, she can no longer go on walks. She rests in the grass and greets my neighbors in my apartment complex where she loves the attention and pats on the head. This was relaxing and fun for both of us.

Then, a strange restlessness started to take over. I felt unmoored, uncertain, and started acting like I had an attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity. As a counselor, I diagnosed this condition frequently with clients, but never thought I had it myself. I would move from room to room constantly distracted and repeatedly forgetting what project I was working on. I woke up with a sense of dread, not knowing which task to tackle next. What could I possibly get done today? On the days I did not do anything I berated myself. What was wrong with me?

Slowly I realized what was happening. When I was first told I was in remission, I saved my energy for the important priorities, which were seeing friends and family (until COVID-19). Additionally, I would do my writing and volunteer when I felt good. When the remission continued, I knew I was on borrowed time until my cancer worsens again.All of us are truly on borrowed time, but those of us with a potentially fatal disease feel this even more. I was putting terrible pressure on myself to get a lot done. I feared that at the end of remission, I would not be able to do all these things I can now do. When I was on chemo I took naps every day and knew I was lucky to take care of myself. And I know this will probably happen again.

But WHY am I putting this extra burden on getting more things finished all the time? I was pressuring myself; it was not my friends or family. Then I realized – so what if my basement is still cluttered and sock drawers unorganized? I need to breathe, breathe, breathe, and go back to the most important things in my life which are friends and family – and enjoying my dog!

The price of remission I was asking was too high for me. I found myself being cantankerous and constantly criticizing myself. I needed to go out and spend time with loved ones and “seize the day,” instead of listing bunches of chores.

Sometimes my priorities get confused, and I think we all do that. We need to stop long enough to realize what is most important. Those of us with cancer know that time is a precious commodity and we need to laugh and love and play!

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.