Life one year after finishing chemo.
I just hit one year since finishing chemo back on November 21st. Woohoo! It’s made me reflect a little bit on this past year. A lot can happen in one year. In some ways chemo feels like it was such a long time ago, but yet in other ways the memories of treatment are still so fresh in my mind that it seems like it was just yesterday. Ever since the moment I was diagnosed with cancer I was already waiting for the glorious day that would be my last day of treatment. I listened to the doctors try to prepare me for the radiation and for the chemo I would get. Then I pressed on through treatment, day after day, as the poison used to kill the cancer also slowly broke down my body. The whole time I held onto the fact that treatment would be over one day, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. All I had to do was make it through the horrible radiation and the awful chemo and this nightmare would be over.
When I had my last chemo treatment I had pretty high expectations-maybe seeing rainbows, shooting stars or a unicorn flying in the sky. I was so, SO happy that treatment was over…but I still had to deal with the yuckiness of the last treatment and waiting for the chemo to get out of my system. Bleh. As the days passed though, I slowly started to feel better and to get my energy back. And I thought, “This is it! Treatment is finally over!” I was so excited to get back to living life, to my normal routines and to put this whole cancer thing behind me.
I was quickly reminded, however, that treatment wasn’t over yet. Right after finishing chemo it was time for another MRI. And a CT scan. And a flex sigmoidoscopy from the surgeon. And blood work. And a check up with my chemo oncologist. I was also still having follow-ups with my radiation oncologist every 3 months. Also now add in visits to my gynecologist because the radiation put me into menopause. Once I hit the one year post-treatment mark, I had another colonoscopy and will now have those annually as well. And some side effects of treatment still remain. The hardest for me is the pain. Even a year later I have pain every day. The doctors think it’s from the lasting effects of radiation. I can’t help but to think that it’s so unfair, they told me the pain would get better. Some days I’m scared it never will get better. And I soon realized that treatment will never be over. Once you have cancer you will always have tests, scans and doctor visits, and you may have lingering side effects even for the rest of your life. Treatment in my case means that for the next 2 years I will have scans and follow-rps every 3 months. Then they will taper off to every 6 months and then eventually to once a year. This is the treatment plan as long as everything goes well. And so the scanxiety continues.
And what if something abnormal comes up? This is where I find myself right now actually. That colonoscopy I had a few weeks ago shows some abnormal cells at the tumor site. The cells were so small that they almost missed them and they aren’t even pre-cancerous so the doctor told us not to freak out yet. Ha! Not freaking out is easier said than done. But he said that’s why nothing has shown up on my scans either, because the cells are so tiny. My surgeon wants to do a more expansive biopsy which will be on Friday. If this biopsy comes back normal then I will continue with my current plan of treatment which is getting scans and scopes every 3-6 months. If there are more abnormal cells then we will discuss surgery at that time. Once again, cancer is taking us on a rollercoaster ride. Obviously I am not looking forward to having this procedure done on Friday. Honestly, I’m pretty bummed out. It is right before Christmas and I know that I will be in a lot of pain. This past year since finishing treatment I have been focusing on healing and recovering and finding a new normal. Now we are faced with another obstacle that is out of our control. It feels a little bit like taking one step forward but two steps back. But at the same time I am feeling extremely grateful for good doctors who are monitoring me closely and that we have found these cells early on. Hopefully we can be proactive about this!
Just when I am frustrated about all of the doctor appointments and scans, something like this happens and it makes me realize how important the continued follow-ups are. As much as I want to be done with cancer forever, I realize that cancer will forever be a part of my life. Even for those who have no evidence of disease, there will always be follow ups and tests. During this past year since finishing chemo I have learned so much. I now truly understand that every day is a gift. It is so important to never take your family for granted and to love on them hard. Attitude is everything. It is so hard to stay positive during hard times, but if you choose to focus on the good things in your life you will be happy and this will reflect onto those around you too. I’ve learned my limits. This has been huge for me. I am one who says yes to everything and is always busy. I’ve learned now that it’s ok to say no. We can’t do everything. We have to take care of ourselves first or we can’t take care of anyone else. It’s made me relax more and take the time to enjoy all of the little moments with my family. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is patience. I’ve had to learn patience while waiting for doctors to call back, while waiting for test results, while waiting for my body to heal. This one is still a struggle for me.
Maybe life isn’t all sunshine and roses since finishing treatment, but it is still a life. I am still alive. My family and I are still adjusting to this new normal, but we are so resilient and will make it a good life, whatever comes our way. If you think about it on Friday say a little prayer for me that all goes well with this procedure. I’m much better at posting updates on my Instagram account than on here so if you want more current info please follow me over there (you can click on the little camera link at the top of my blog). And I wish you and yours a happy holiday season and a healthy new year! XOXO
*To read from the beginning of my cancer journey, click here.