It has been almost three years now since I was diagnosed with cancer.
It has been almost two years since I finished medical treatment for everything involved with cancer.
I still don't know exactly what to think about a lot of things after all this. However, life does not stop and continues on. I am able these days to look back at so many things that have happened, good or bad, expected or unexpected, and how things have really changed. With each day, I find I am able to look back at everything that happened with my cancer treatment, and my life with a much more critical eye.
The weirdest part for me looking back over the last few years is that I have still been "me" but making different decisions than I did before cancer. Still, I was "me" but I didn't feel like it anymore. Some choices were because I was sick or depressed (especially immediately following completion of treatment), some I believe were caused by clouded judgment because of all the drugs and pain medications I was on. Many decisions I made were based around guilt (survivors guilt is a whole other issue...) or trying to "fix" things quickly for the people who helped me out during that time. This is just a short list of complications that arise post-cancer treatment.
When you become so accustomed to doing things one way, or thinking one way, you feel at a bit of a loss when things change so dramatically. I know I did. To say the last few years has been challenging is an understatement. To say it has been unique, I think would also be a mistake. Having cancer, having the treatment that goes along with it, made me basically hit the "reset" button for life. Rethinking everything, but not really being in a clear enough mindset to think about these things critically is something I realized happened now. I know this is a situation that is not unique, and almost every cancer patient goes through their unique story post-treatment. Getting into the "New Normal," or whatever you want to call this adjustment period, can be difficult, time consuming and stressful (for not just me, but for my friends and family as well). You spend your whole life acting a certain way, based on your experiences, then, with one traumatic event, a lot of views get changed. And then, sometimes, change back again. Not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely a thing worth acknowledging.
My priorities have changed because of my experience with cancer. Some of these are good. The things I get stressed about (or not stressed about) have changed, and I feel like a different person in a lot of ways. I hear a lot of the time people say how cancer changed them "for the better" but I thought I was a pretty decent person before all this cancer stuff, so I don't really agree with that statement. I am much more in tune with the importance of healthy eating and exercise, although I do sway from time to time. I volunteer more, and I have gotten involved with fundraising for cancer research in my home province. All good things, that maybe I wouldn't have done before, but certainly wish I had started sooner in my life.
I have made a lot of mistakes along the way too, no doubt about that. These are the hardest things for me to deal with. Knowing I hurt people along the way when I was trying to do the right thing, or what I thought was the right thing has been incredibly hard. I thought I could just walk away from treatment and everything would be fine. I thought, that maybe I was making "good" decisions or the right call about a lot of things, only to look back and see how incredibly wrong I was. I thought, I didn't need to talk about my post treatment problems, I thought they would all go away so quickly. Never being completely honest about things like "chemo brain" or side effects have done nothing but hurt me. I thought people would view me as weak or broken, because that was the way I viewed myself. No doubt had I of been up front about these things immediately, I could of dealt with them much sooner than I actually did. I want desperately to make up for lost time. Time I lost chasing goals and time I lost with my closest friends.
I really didn't know how, not only would my opinions change on many things, but I wouldn't realize how they actually changed. When I finished treatment, I was happy to be alive, happy to be done. Euphoric. I would do anything to help out those who were with me, stood by my side. I would do anything to help them out and help them achieve their goals. What I didn't realize, was that I wasn't doing a lot of things for myself. I put on a strong face, did my best to get back into shape, and try my best not to let check-ups frighten me.
One good thing of all the looking back is that I see that, at the very least I am moving in the right direction these days. I am getting stronger, getting clearer in mind, more focused and am staring what I can be in right in the face. Cancer changed my life, made it harder, made it more complicated no doubt. But I won't let it rule me, I won't let it continue to take away from me, that is something I certainly have realized upon all this looking back.
Life is still moving forward and I have to go with it.