Friday, November 18, 2011

Is That It?

I'm really struggling with mixed feelings since finishing my chemo.

I should be elated that I'm finished!  I should throw a party!  Actually, I did throw a party with my friends and it was fun!  But, I feel like I should be happy!

And I AM happy!  I really am.


That happiness comes with a lot of other feelings that I can't quite explain.  I keep asking myself if I'm depressed but I don't think that depression really sums it up.  I'm angry and confused and sad.  And probably about 100 other emotions that I can't even quite identify.  Every emotion that I didn't have time for the last 6 months has now crept to the surface.

When I found out that I had breast cancer back in May, I was devastated.  I cried a lot through the process of being diagnosed, hearing about my options and finally choosing a double mastectomy.  The whole thing completely challenged everything I have in me.  I had the mastectomy in July, healing took 7 weeks during which time I found out that I had to start chemo right away.  I started chemo, lost my hair, lost my energy, lost a lot.  During those 6 months of my life (from diagnosis through chemo), my life was all about the next step - about fighting cancer.  About winning.  About doing anything it took to make sure I could get my life back.

And now, I have my life back, don't I?

Or maybe not.

I feel lost.

First of all, I'm frustrated by the lingering fatigue and pain.  I'm absolutely exhausted everyday and managing even the smallest task is tiring and painful.  Everything in my body aches and I have to still take pain pills to sleep at night.  It's been 3 weeks since my last chemo - I know that's not a long time - but, in my mind, I thought I'd be starting to LIVE again.  Starting to clean my house and make gourmet dinners and manage going to the mall and the gym.  All the stuff I used to do and loved.

Instead, my family has eaten fast food for 3 of the last 5 days for dinner, all I do is drive by the gym, the house is close to being featured on Hoarders and shopping doesn't even sound fun!  <gasp>  I have meals planned and I shopped for food but I'm so exhausted (after a full day of napping!) that I can't even gather enough energy to cook the food.  Plus my legs hurt, my back hurts, my arms hurt.  Everything hurts and moving makes it worse.  I feel like I've worked out all day, everyday.  I can manage to clean the kitchen almost everyday but this burst of energy is followed by a nap.  I've taken to window shopping online.  The closest I've gotten to the gym is to buy cupcakes at the bakery next door.

My physical therapist suggested that going back to the gym might help alleviate some of the pain. I don't see how riding the stationary bike (which is painful) or walking the treadmill (painful!) is going to create less pain.  I really like my physical therapist but I think she might secretly be trying to kill me.

Not only am I struggling physically but I'm struggling emotionally as well.

I AM happy chemo is over.  I AM happy that I'm not putting poison in my body every 3 weeks anymore.  I'm THRILLED in fact.

But - I can't shake the feeling of "Is that it?"  After 6 months of constant conversations and thoughts about my care - everything focused on me having breast cancer and planning the next step - it just ends.  You go to your last chemo and that's it.  You make your next appointment to see the oncologist for a month later and that's it.   And then you are left with...nothing.  Nothing to do.  Nothing to do but wait.  Wait for what?  Wait for the cancer to come back?  Wait for check-ups every 12 weeks?  I don't know.  I've been so busy just surviving the past 6 months that to have my whole life spread out before me now seems so overwhelming.

Cancer changes a person.  Anyone can understand that.  I know it's changed me.  Though, I've had cancer twice now and am done "changing" thankyouverymuch.  Maybe I just don't know who I really am anymore.  In a way I want my old life back, but then, I know I'll never be the same.  So where do I go from here?  How do I transition from "having breast cancer" to "breast cancer survivor?"  Maybe it's not as easy as just finishing chemo. Maybe there's more to the process and I'm missing something?

But I don't know yet what it is.


  1. I'm glad you wrote this. It's brave to admit you're lost. We're all so devoted to looking like we've got direction and purpose that we feel being lost is the same as being stranded or maybe the same as being lazy, self-pitying or just done. Sometimes, we just have to wander on our own until something catches our eye or, hell, catches hold of us without our permission and we have a direction and start gaining speed. It's never a comfortable feeling, having grown out of our own skin and not sure what fits anymore, but you have a lot to be proud of in the meantime. A lot. -Kate Jones

  2. Hey there, what a powerful post. I feel for you. When they say it gets better, what they don't mention is that you can't really tell that it is getting better. It's a mean trick. (I agree with Maggie about the gym. We have a treadmill at work I usedafter my chemo. It was pathetic. Ten minutes at 1-2 mph per day. It helped me feel like I was doing something.). You hang in there. We should meet for coffee and finally actually "meet."

  3. Laura, I read this and a tear came to my eye. I have dealt with that word "Cancer" all my life with both grandmothers and several of my friends and it scares the crap out of me to think that I could be next. It is a lot to take on and a lot of life changing things have happened undoubtedly but you are a strong person and god gave this situation to you not to punish you but to make you stronger and to teach. You are such a good people person you should start up a support group or do something with helping others to cope with cancer. You are so open and such a motivator of others you just need to direct that motivation in your direction. If you ever want to just go for a walk on the trail instead of on the treadmill, let me know I would love to go. Keep your chin up girl.

  4. Thank you for your honesty and sharing. It is what I need right now. I have been online for weeks reading many supportive stxories and yours have touched me the most. Thank you...

  5. Thank you so much Mary!! I'm so glad it touched you! You don't know how much that means to me!