The "C" Word
Guest post by Heather Hadlock, survivor...
"Cancer.. the dreaded c word no one wants to here. It's amazing to me how people think once the cancer is "gone" that everything goes back to normal. Like before you had cancer. So many people have said this to me. "It's so great your cancer is gone now you can go back to normal!" What is normal after having breast cancer? Normal is going to doctors every 6 months for the next few years and every year the rest of your life. Normal is taking a pill for 5 years. It's seeing a bruise, having pain or feeling a bump and completely get terrified that the cancer is back. It's making a ct/mri/pet scan and not sleeping for days because you are worried at the results. Normal is never looking like you use to which is harder on some days. Normal is losing friends who you'd always thought would be there for you. Normal is finding new friends who are there to support you. Normal is constantly worrying that you are burdening others and you try to be strong. It's being in a deep conversation and completely forgetting what you were just talking about; then feeling embarrassed to say, what was i saying, because you genuinely do not remember. Normal is feeling good one minute and the next feeling like you've ran a marathon and need a nap. It is your hair, nails, eyelashes, eyebrows not growing back like you hoped. Normal is spending a day out with family to the next being on the couch because your body is exhausted. Normal is explaining your story to everyone you meet and hoping they don't start judging based on their own opinion. The decisions I have faced along the way were not easy. They weren't just yep that sounds good. This is not the time to make a person feel self conscious about going flat or making this very hard decision. They are thought out, talked about with medical staff & they are researched. And though some think they'd do it differently, you don't know what you'd actually do until you yourself are faced with this. I hope none of you ever have to!
It was one year ago I heard these horrific words, “you have cancer.” I’ve never been more scared in my entire life! I truly hope you never have to have that feeling; it’s awful; WAITING! Wondering what the tests will say, so you can start on treatments. Waiting is torture! But then you begin treatments, and you’ve heard all about the horror stories, but until you start them yourself you just don’t know. The EMOTIONS! The hair falling out, and you thought you were prepared because you had cut it beforehand, but then it starts coming out and you can’t stop the tears. Tears! There are always tears! Feeling absolutely ugly every time you pass a mirror. The side effects! They tell you all about them, but then you start experiencing them. You have to change plans, because now conquering cancer is your life. You feel you’ve let everyone down. You don’t get to visit or travel and spend time with anyone, because traveling to doctor appointments now consumes your reality. You are told I don’t want to talk to you about your cancer because I don’t want you to think about it; but that’s all you do, because you’re living it every single day! You’re told it’s wonderful we have modern medicine, and you’re thankful, but the modern medicine is making you miserable as you fight this disease. You feel like you’re supposed to act like everything is fine; but every single thing has changed! You find who truly cares! People you thought would be there for you, aren’t. And others totally take you by surprise with their genuine concern. You see the fear manifest itself differently in your kids; but they had stress from your cancer, too; it changed their plans & lives. You have more tears; because those never, ever stop. You have absolute fear of surgery; because you know what the outcome will be; removing part of yourself. You have pain like you’ve never felt before after surgery. You miss even more family things (one being your sweet sons play), because you are trying to recover. Then you start radiation & continually burn your skin until you’re so miserable you cry yet more tears. And then you’re “done.” What does that even mean?! Trying to process the year from hell you just experienced. And you miss more things because you are not even you anymore; you’re still adjusting. I’ve heard I complain & I’m looking for sympathy. None of these are true. But to not offend anyone anymore, I won’t make any more posts about my “cancer.” The thing is, last year changed me, and I’ll never be the same! And I worry about it returning; because it does for so many, and it scares me. I’m sorry if I’ve made anyone uncomfortable. I was just trying to get through the hardest year of my life."