Provided by William Darnell Sr. (Bill) from I Got A Dream In Mind
No one said that stopping treatment was going to be so hard…
I met with my doctor recently, and was done with therapy for lymphoma for close to a year and five months now. I hadn’t been feeling well, and I had no symptoms of cancer, nothing that made me suspicious of a recurrence. After the doctor examined me and reviewed my most recent CT scan and labs, the doctor agreed. No recurrence. He wrote in his notes, “NED,” the acronym for no evidence of disease.
As we were wrapping up the visit, he asked me if there was anything else on my mind, anything else I was concerned about.
“I still get really nervous and anxious before coming to see you and before each scan,” I said. “I was prepared for how radiotherapy would make me feel. I expected to feel tired, to get sick. What I wasn’t prepared for was how to move on with my life, without letting cancer take over. No one told me that getting on with life after cancer would be like this. No one told me that this would be so hard.”
And, to a large degree, he thinks I’m right.
Doctor’s are very good at getting people through radiotherapy treatments and chemotherapy. Oncologists and oncology nurses are great at counseling on side effects, helping to manage nausea and other ill-effects of treatment. Families rally around the cancer patient during this time, providing much-needed emotional support and physical support. Friends – hopefully – step up to the plate and offer shoulders to cry on, hugs, personal experiences, and distraction.
But when treatment is over? Well, life gets back to normal. Right?
Hmm … not so fast. It’s just not that easy. That’s what they forget to tell patients. Getting back to normal, getting on with life, is harder than everyone expects.
Picking up the pieces of your life before cancer – before radiotherapy and chemotherapy wreaked havoc on the body and soul – takes much longer than one might expect. With the end of treatment comes an upwelling of fear of recurrence, fear that because active treatment has stopped, the cancer will be able to grow again. There is fear surrounding each scan and each blood draw. Anxiety swells before each oncology visit.
They may have forgotten to tell us that this is all normal. It’s an expected part of the recovery process. The fatigue from radiotherapy and chemotherapy will get better over time. The fear of recurrence will subside with the passing of the months.
Another thing that they may have forgotten to tell us? Will we be able to get on with your life again after cancer treatment? We probably will be a changed person after your experience, but we’ll get back to normal. If not the old normal then for sure a new one. Your life will resume, despite cancer, beyond cancer. Just be sure to rally the support during this time. We still need it. Thank you for everything; the love, support, the hugs and the smiles of encouragment for us to move ahead and gain life again.