When I was diagnosed with cancer, one thing I really was prepared for was the fight during treatment. I knew I was going to have surgery, leading to my inability to walk for some time. I knew when I started chemotherapy I would lose my hair, feel worse than I ever have in my life, and have to find a way to mentally see myself through it. I knew I was going to get radiation. That this would burn my skin worse than any sunburn I have ever had and it would take many weeks to heal. All of this would leave my body physically scarred.
What I fully was not prepared for was everything that came after.
During treatment doctors told me everything that was going on, what was happening in my body and when I would be "finished" the treatment plan. Maybe I was extremely naive, untouched from major illness before this, I believed life would go back to normal.
I was wrong.
But what I have learned is that I am not alone in this struggle. Although less obvious than physical disabilities from cancer treatment (or during cancer treatment), mental struggles are usually present afterwards. This can present itself in many ways, and when you are young, can seem to go on forever. It is not a quick or easy fix.
I was completely unprepared for these mental struggles. I understood that there would be stresses and strains as my body healed. It takes time and effort to heal a body after any type of cancer treatment. I understood that there would be check-ups to see how I was doing. Makes sense, no one wants to get sick again, but if you do, you want it to get caught as early as possible. What I really didn't get is how long some of these effects would carry on and how it would weigh on the shoulders of someone. Mental rehab is just as important as physical rehab after cancer treatment. Admitting I needed that was one of the hardest things I had to do after cancer treatment.
The new fight that takes place for so many cancer survivors (both young and old) is this fight after the fight. I am truly happy the more I read, and the more I talk to people that I realize that this is normal. Getting back to, not necessarily a "normal" mentality, but a mentality you are comfortable in, one that can make you happy again, can take some time. The growing awareness of this in the young adult cancer community is amazing. There is a growing support for this. For me, most of the support has come through talking to other survivors. Seeing I am not alone in this struggle has calmed me to some degree.
Everyone's struggle afterwards is different. And everyone has it go on for a different period of time. Acknowledging that the fight continues after the treatments have ended and seeking out help can help you out. I know it has been a great help for me. You are not alone in this one, no matter how old you are, and how far along you are.