Love & the Vastness of Cancer

For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love. Carl Sagan
The greatest gift of WWGN for me is my interaction with you. Sharing our stories tears down, brick by brick, the emotional wall we inevitably hit on our cancer journey. A WWGN reader left a powerful comment that eloquently sums it up:
My personal feelings of WHAT NEXT! WOW!
The strangest feeling of WHAT next? Imaginary loneliness and isolation! Confusion! From the day of diagnosis, it was constant GO, GO, GO, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT.. Never a minute of rest (although one would think fighting cancer requires a lot of rest!) But no rest mentally and often times physically. Traveling here and there, meeting this person, that person! Explaining to family, friends, repeating yourself OVER, and OVER! Prayers and hugs coming from every direction! The CENTER of attention during a horrible event! THEN! BOOM! Surgery over, healed, chemo done, radiation done.. Appointments done! Phone calls and inquiries slowly disappear! Life slowly resumes.. BUT, will my life be like it was? Am I the same? Where did everyone go? What do I do now? Do you GET WHERE I’m GOING? I was LOST.. IT was HARD to get back! I still wonder WHAT NEXT and I’m certain always will. But was it REALLY all about NATHALIE? I feel selfish! Should I? Anyone else have stories to share about how they felt AFTER all was OVER (hopefully for ever?)
The black hole of cancer sucks us into its vastness, whirling us about. Without a touchstone (what used to be called normal), our sense of direction is gone and life on the other side is unrecognizable. Then, when we are most emotionally lost, everyone else wants to move on, leaving us to ask, “Where did everyone go?”
When we feel abandoned it’s hard to find the love, but it’s there if you’re willing to do the work:
1.  Get real with your family and friends about your emotional state. I know you’d much rather just move on and put cancer behind you, like they seem to be doing. If you’re not there yet, however, you have to be speak up and be honest. Putting on a brave front just leads to cance anger and resentment. Take it from me, there’s a lot of power in sharing your bad attitude toward cancer.
2.  Get support from others who “get it.” The vastness of life after cancer is simply not bearable without the loving support of people who understand the cancer journey (cancer anger, loneliness, stress, cancer survivor’s guilt, body image, fear, and other after cancer emotions.) How do you find other cancer survivors and in-tune professionals? Communicate! Join a support group, see a therapist, get involved. I just spent the afternoon sitting on a panel for the Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project. Not only did I educate third-year medical family practice residents as to the effects of cancer on the whole patient, but I also got to spend time talking and sharing with other survivors. Reach out and keep reaching out until you get the support you deserve.
Every time I meet with other survivors, I bask in their understanding, validation and empathy – and that to me is love. Because I wanted Nathalie to feel that same love force, I posted her comment on my Facebook page. The responses she got came across loud and clear and assured me, and hopefully Nathalie, that we are a community of cancer and love ready, willing and able to make the vastness of cancer bearable for each other.
Tell me below if you felt like Nathalie after your treatment ended. Did you reach out to others for support and find the love?
Survival > Existence,
Debbie

Comments

Michelle Martin's picture

Feeling lost too.

Thank you so much for this post and all the other wonderful things that you post. It has been so helpful for me to know that I am not alone in how I feel post treatment. I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in January of 2012. All of last year was spent on treatment — 3 major surgeries and 6 months of very aggressive chemo. I lost my job of 16 years. And, although I am so happy to be cancer free and working at home doing part-time freelance work, I still feel lost. I just started seeing a therapist last week (who is also a cancer survivor). Just being able to tell someone my story has been helpful and it’s helping me share my feelings with my family and very close friends. I am not the same person as I was, my life is very different, so there isn’t any “back to normal.” Cancer taught me how strong I am and I know if I can get through all that I went through that I can get through anything, but I still find myself feeling very vulnerable and afraid. To all of you fellow survivors out there, I just want to hug you and tell you that I feel that way too and although we don’t know each other, we are somehow connected. Love to you all.
Debbie's picture

That’s What I’m Talking About!

Dear Michelle:

That’s what I’m talking about!! Your words gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling of togetherness and love. Thank you for your beautiful comment and hugs, love and support. I too felt strength and vulnerability, transition and confusion, lost and found. That’s why I know you’re going to make it to inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy. Just keep doing the work and feeling (and sharing) the love!

Survival > Existence,

Debbie

Pam's picture

Survivorship.

Survivorship issues and “what’s next” are the hardest parts of this journey in my opinion. There’s something you’re working for during the treatment phase then, like you said Debbie, it’s “you’re all better. take care. see you when I see you”. At least that’s how it feels. I’ve learned that first and foremost I have to take care of myself and deal with the issues that are causing me to feel alone and isolated. It’s not been an easy journey and I still have so far to go but knowing it IS an issue helps me think through those feelings when they arise. May we all find the peace and support we’re looking for whether it’s through our own work, with the help of others, or both. Love you’re blog Debbie and share it with all my cancer sisters and brothers.

Debbie's picture

You’re So Right About the Need to Take Care of Ourselves

Hi Pam:

Thanks for sharing some very wise advice. We definitely have to take care of ourselves – which includes taking the time to deal with our emotional survivorship issues. Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing my blog with others. If you haven’t done so already, make sure to sign up for my newsletter for more info and sharing.

Take good care.

Survival > Existence,

Debbie

Keshia's picture

Giving Support

One of my closest friends passed away two years ago from a long fought battle from colon cancer. I was with her while she was fighting the disease with everything she got. That was a trying time for me because I have never experienced such pain, confusion and helplessness. After reading the post and comments, I see how strong and resilient women are and the need for us to always give support no matter who needs it.
Even though I am not diagnosed with the disease, after the passing of my friend it took me some time to get back on a normal routine. I wanted to comment and give my kudos to you ladies for letting people know that it’s not an easy fight emotionally, physically, spiritually but it’s a fight we can win. Thanks for a great post.

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