Thursday, June 20, 2024

My 10th cancerversary approaches

It's hard to believe that on July 9th of this year, I'll celebrate a decade of being cancer free! Wow! 

I still don't understand why God has allowed me to survive this long without a recurrence, but I'm thankful. 

As I read back through my old blog posts, I'm thrust back into the thick of things when cancer was new to me and I was more scared than I care to admit. But that's a good thing too, I think. It's important to remember. 

I'm so glad I write things down. Now that I'm older, my memory isn't as sharp as it once was. Oh, I can remember things that happened 50 or 60 years ago with no problem, but remembering what I had for lunch yesterday - I have to really try hard to think and remember that. 

For the past 10 years, cancer consumed my life. Now, I feel like I can put it behind me. Believe me, I'm not naive. I have a friend, also named Bonnie, who was diagnosed with cancer about 25 years ago. She was cancer free for about 22 years and then, it came back with a vengeance and took her life. 

While I know cancer could come back into my life again one day, I'm praying it doesn't. It's nasty business and I don't ever want to deal with it again. 

I didn't realize, until this year, how much power I'd given cancer over my life. Every time I had a medical issue, I assumed the cancer was rearing its ugly head again and was about to pay me a surprise visit. That fear of recurrence manifested itself into chronic insomnia, PTSD, and anxiety. Each of those were tough to overcome and truth be told, I still struggle with all of them in some form or fashion. 

I've found some things that help though like CBD gummies or tinctures for PTSD, art therapy has helped with anxiety, and my doc has given me a prescription to help with insomnia. I never thought I'd need help with those things, but I did and still do. It's not something I'm ashamed of, it's just a byproduct of cancer trauma. And it's okay to do whatever necessary to battle them so I can live a semi normal and productive life. 

Many people have no clue how cancer affects a person's mental and emotional health. They can often see physical effects of the disease, but it's not as easy for outsiders to see or understand the other sides. 

Some survivors of cancer are starting to realize these various side effects are normal. They are learning it's okay to discuss their struggles and admit to dealing with the challenges these side effects bring to their daily lives. As they do, they find others are facing the same things. 

Cancer definitely alters a person's life but I've found it's best to look for the ways it's helped me survive instead of focusing on what it took from me. 

It has not been an easy road to travel and honestly, I'd never want to do it again. I have realized, over these past 10 years. that I have a good bit of gumption in my soul. The dictionary describes this old Southern term as meaning to have initiative; aggressiveness; or resourcefulness. I think it fits perfectly, don't you? 

Cancer survivors need that inner drive to survive. It's doable, but it takes guts and grit to get there. 

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