Right before my last chemo, I remember thinking that cancer was almost over. I assumed that once the doctors, the hospitals, treatment and tests went away, cancer would go away too and but I learned that it doesn't.
As time passed and the days of chemo were farther and farther away, my
physical appearance started looking the way it did before but internally I felt
broken. Now that's not an easy thing for me to admit. I'm the one who others
come to to fix their problems, I'm the one who can do anything, I'm a 'yes'
person, and I not only don't like admitting that I can't do something, I
strongly believe that there is nothing that I can't do.
Cancer has left me with this void, an unfulfilled spot in my soul that needs
to be filled. You ask, 'what does it need to be filled with Katie?' and I say
'Let me try to explain.' (<----- too much??).
Cancer can quite easily leave you with a sort of post traumatic stress
disorder. During diagnosis and treatment, it is common to be in fight or flight
mode and while everyone around you is struggling with what you're going through,
odds are you're trying to make it through to the next hour without puking.
Tomorrow, Saturday night, and next week all don't matter - surviving the
chemical warfare of chemo matters. It isn't until the end of treatment when you
have to deal with the emotional side because now that you aren't trying to stop
from puking or staying up all night with anxiety to only sleep through the day
from exhaustion, you have time to think. While you're in the thick of things,
you almost don't have time to deal with the psychological aspects of cancer and
I think that's why it feels so overwhelming after treatment (which is oddly
enough when everyone around you takes a huge sigh of relief and starts treating
you like it's over).
Secondly, cancer is about loss. You have to mourn the loss of a body part,
potentially. You need to mourn the life that you used to know. In my case, I
have to mourn the body that I used to have. To be quite honest, I have to mourn
naivety. I liked it a lot and I don't have it anymore. You could compare that
loss with the loss of a loved one; a parent, a child, or a sibling. I am not
saying it's an exact comparison, but the idea that I am trying to get across is
that a year after a loved one dies, you aren't 'over' the trauma and the pain is
still right there. As time passes, the pain may not be as fresh but it doesn't
mean it's not there. That's the way I feel about having had cancer. Sometimes I
feel like my friends or family may think, 'God, why is she STILL talking about
cancer, treatment ended over a year ago' but to be honest, the pain is still
there. To be fair, once you've had cancer, your perspective changes and what's
important to you shifts so the idea of being the same Katie that I used to be
doesn't seem possible.
There is no right way to do
this cancer thing and I mean that to include; your reaction to your diagnosis,
surgery, treatment, survivorship and
so much more. You have no idea if your thoughts are totally crazy or totally on
par with what others think when they are at the same part as you are in your
'journey' (I still shutter when I write that word. I really don't like it). I
knew that the transition period between patient and survivor was difficult for
most, but what I didn't know was what I needed to help me through the other side
A few months ago, I read a blog post by the amazing Terri Wingham. She talked
about wanting to take twelve cancer survivors to India where they could
volunteer for two weeks and by helping others they would be helping themselves.
Now when I read this post, I thought I was just reading some of Terri's
wonderful writing but when I ended up in tears by the end of it, I knew that I
needed to be part of the adventure.
Going to India, looking into the eyes of a woman who speaks a different
language, comes from a different background, and was most likely not given the
same opportunities that I have been given in life, will provide a connection
and a unity that someone who has never had cancer cannot understand and although
we won't be able to communicate with words, we will understand each other's
pain. The thought of that makes me feel the healing power of this trip.
This trip means a lot to not
only me but also to future cancer survivors. It is so easy to feel the most
isolated and the most alone after treatment ends because for months you have
been monitored on a daily basis and now it's a simple 'See you in three months'
and your body is totally left to betray you again. This foundation will help
fill a huge void in resources for survivorship and a huge void in my
I would really appreciate your help in getting to India. I am currently
trying to fundraise $2400 to be able to go on this adventure. Any donation would
be appreciated - if everyone who read this post donated $10, I would reach my
goal in a heart beat. Donate
I realize that not everyone
can afford to donate money and if that's the case, please spread the word about
this amazing opportunity to other cancer survivors. This is the beginning of an
incredible adventure for future survivors and an essential part of surviving
survivorship. Please pass on this link
I know from having taught in grade school and ESL at my university that quite
often the teacher becomes the student and quite often, I felt like I learned
more than I taught. I anticipate that India will provide the same outcome. I
hope to spread laughter and kindness and hope but quite honestly, I believe this
is going to be a life changing experience where I will learn much more than I
will be able to teach.