I’ve been too busy to blog lately–I’ve been having a grand pity party with no time for such matters.
I’ve been learning a bit about “survivorship”, which I will define as the extremely difficult time we have between the hub-bub and fuss of treatment and returning to “normal” life. I have been sort of quiet about it considering how much mental anguish I’ve found myself in, but I’ve decided it’s important to talk about for the sake of others. I’m not officially done with treatment (I have 1 more week of chemo, bilateral mastectomy, 6.5 weeks of radiation, then down the road a reconstructive surgery and recovery), but I think my let downs are like the survivorship stuff because I already got the news of my healing and fully believe it is complete and permanent. Normally if that were to happen it would be at the end of treatment.
So, for anyone involved in supporting people with cancer (probably all major illnesses, but it could look different), please read about this issue. In big cities there are doctors with a heart and interest in the matter, but no one around here has mentioned it. Basically, it’s like a minor depression because everyone supporting you feels like their jobs are done and goes back to their normal lives and routine. But the patient (in this case, me) can’t go back to normal. Besides still dealing with all the side effects, I’m looking at everything differently. I am NOT the same person as before. In the past year I: 1) changed from a mom of 1 to a mom of 2, 2) went an extremely difficult issue with Yaacov that changed us both entirely, 3) got a cancer diagnosis, 4) got a death sentence, 5) got bombarded with massive love from total strangers for months, 6) got miraculously healed, death sentence revoked, 7) got left (feeling) alone with another year of treatment and am expected to just act and behave like 3-7 never happened.
So, I’m spelling out how I feel, but people in these situations all go through it, just with different details. There are biological reasons for the emotional part, because of a crash from all the previously elevated emotions that can’t be sustained any longer. Plus, there’s more time for reality to set it about everything that’s been going on.
I think I’m healing pretty quickly from this issue, but it could get worse after the surgery. I’ve decided to wait on the ovary removal until my mind is clearer, but the pain, time away from kids during the recovery, and anguish from the disfigurement of my upper body will not be good for me. Anyway, one of the issues all survivors have is a paranoia about every ache and pain. I am especially prone to this because, in the eyes of my doctors, I am not permanently healed, but just in a good place right now. However, over the past few weeks God has given me peace and removed that paranoia, so that’s good.
I’m learning so much these days. I have always taken issue with cancer people who continue to think and talk about their illness long after it’s gone. But now I get it. No matter how hard our loved ones might try to support us, they really will never know what we went through or go through. So we get this yearning to help others go through it. It sort of validates us and what we went through. Maybe gives it a purpose. And keeps us from haing to sweep that important time for us under the rug. There was a new girl at chemo yesterday and she was very young, very scared. She has stage 3 ovarian cancer and for some reason that’s one that tends to be chronic, really like stage 4. I could see the fear in her eyes from across the room. The poor thing, she just needed someone to talk to. I think I made her first treatment 100 times better than mine was. Not that hers was great, by any means, but hopefully at least better. This is the cheesiest thing I’ll say today, but maybe my being there for her first chemo is the reason God wanted me to keep up my treatments. If so, it was worth it.
I struggle with my ungrateful and depressed feelings, because while I know they are valid when explained to people in the world, I don’t compare myself to people of the world. I strive to be like Jesus, and to lean on Jesus when I can’t do it on my own. Shouldn’t that mean I can just pray when I feel bad, and let it go? The word says to “do everything without complaining or arguing”, “never grow tired of doing good”, and to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”. Plus, He already answered my big prayers about being healed. So, how do I dare complain now of the incomparable issues I’m having? I guess I’m pretty bold i doing so, and I really shouldn’t. But I met a therapist for the first time this week, and she reminded me that throughout the Bible, stronger and holier people than me are complaining and struggling. So, I’m in good company at least. Again, it doesn’t give me permission to keep it up, but I know it’s a common struggle.
The specific story the counselor reminded me of is in 1 Kings w 18-19 when Elijah (the awesome prophet who God used in much greater ways that any of us) was told by Jezebel that she was going to kill him. Something about that just screamed, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” (which has been my motto for 2 weeks or so), and he gave up on life and ran off to hide until his time was up. That is exactly how I had been feeling. I wasn’t going to kill myself or anything, but sometimes something’s gotta give. As always, the answer for me was to cry out to God in submission, beg for mercy, and wait for help. So, the point that tends to relate to me is that I’m typically the thing that has to “give”. I gave up more of my desires and focused on Him more. I return I have found comfort, the way the angel in 1 Kings provided for Elijah when he was hiding.
If and when anyone else starts having these feelings, please feel free to send them to me for empathy. So far, the biggest thing that has helped is praising and thanking God aloud for the many, many blessings He has shared. It makes me more aware of and grateful for the grass on my side of the fence.
There is something so exhausting about all these emotions, and praying for and hearing about the enormous amount of sick people I have connections to. Someone included these verses in a prayer request earlier and they really hit the spot, 2 Cor 4:8-9 “We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what do do, but we do not give up the hope of the living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed.”