A few weeks ago I went to see Pearl Jam. They are my favorite band, they were playing in my hometown of Vancouver, and I knew it would take a lot for me to miss this one. The band delivered, they played for hours, and it was quite honestly the best show I have ever seen. They played so many of my favorites "Yellow Ledbetter," "Low Light," "Corduroy," "Better Man" and many, many more. The songs were well played, the band was into it, the crowd sang (as did I) and it was an overall incredibly emotional night for me.
This doesn't seem like a big achievement, but the last time they played in Vancouver I had cancer. I was in that place where I in fact could not go see them. I was too sick, in too much pain, and to be honest, even if I was feeling okay that week, I got sick so often with my low white blood cell count I really couldn't risk another infection. Since high school I had always dreamed of seeing Pearl Jam play, and I thought this would be my only chance and I would have missed it. It was pretty depressing. Seeing the band play was a small victory, but a victory none the less.
I try not to reflect on these experiences too much, I try hard to move forward and put cancer in the past. But as a cancer survivor, sometimes, many times, that is impossible. I am currently in a position where my treatment has been completed and things are going reasonably well. I am trying very hard to move forward, but still struggle when things like these happen.
The concert was surreal. Oddly enough, I had a bad cold that week too but it was not stopping me. I had two thoughts in my head for most of the show: 1) How awesome it was; and 2) The last time they were here I as in a hospital bed undergoing chemotherapy.
It can be hard to separate these feelings when moving forward and enjoying something that I had wanted to do for so long. Sometimes the mind wanders and I think for a second will I be sick the next time a show plays, or will I even be around for the next show? I did my best to take in the night, despite anything in my head. I listened and sang along with my favorites the whole night.
There is so much uncertainty with moving forward after cancer treatment, regardless of prognosis or cancer. And you cannot predict what will bring up different emotions surrounding it. Terms like "good type of cancer," high treatment success rates, low success rates and all the different stages of cancer. We all know people live and die under each prognosis. It can be tough to convince yourself after treatment is completed that you are in fact one of the "lucky ones." It is something I struggle with, not every day, but enough of them. I have found some excellent counseling these days that has really stuck out and started to really push me in the right direction. Some days, that isn't forward, but rather sideways and sometimes even backwards.
I have started to learn that confronting my fears and issues surrounding moving forward and dealing with cancer is much more positive for me then trying to push past it. It really is hard, and I always feel emotionally drained after each session. The biggest thing for me is to acknowledge that going forward is a struggle. There will always be uncertainty with it for me. My prognosis is good, but it is always in the back of my head, which leads to such a struggle. It is normal to be concerned about your health and that is okay. It leads to many things that can be difficult, changes with your life in so many ways I can't begin to explain. Major life issues can come up, change in a heart beat, and change back. Having a few good people around to support you, whether it is friends, family, a significant other, a counselor, whoever it doesn't matter. Don't try and do it yourself, and just know it is okay to struggle with moving forward. You certainly are not alone. I struggle many days.
My favorite song by Pearl Jam is "Alive.It was in the final encore of the night, and I have to say it was amazing. The guys were amazing, I was so happy they played it, and as the band played and the crowd sang, I accepted that I can move forward. It won't always be easy or direct, but I am. I will have moments, as all cancer patients and survivors will, like tonight where small victories like seeing a band play will happen and it will bring out big emotions. If I am lucky, some bigger achievements will happen down the road, if with the uncertainty of my own health always a present factor in my life. My path is forward after cancer, even if there are many twists and turns and struggles of all kinds along the way.