There’s a lot to celebrate every day – some days more than others, but today especially because 1 year ago today, I finished my last chemo treatment. Some people say you’re “cancer free” after you have your surgery to remove it. Others feel like you’re not truly “cancer free” until you finish your last chemo treatment. For me, I’m a little more partial to the latter since chemo was the last aggressive effort to get rid of any wandering and potential cancer cells in my body. I definitely remember my last day of chemo – all the nurses clapped while I was leaving and they even gave me a “certificate of completion” that they had signed. I just smiled, waved goodbye as I left, and remembered how happy I was to get out of there!
The funny thing is that once I was done with chemo, that was kind of it. As expected, people stopped bringing me food, stopped asking how I was doing, and stopped checking in on me. I’m absolutely not complaining about any of that, but I came to realize that a lot of people assumed that once I was done with chemo, it was back to normal life. They say it only takes about 12 weeks to recover from chemo symptoms like weight gain, rashes, muscle fatigue, not being able to taste anything, and the start of your hair growing back, but those are just the physical things. And in all honestly, it took much longer than 12 weeks! The emotional hardships and aftermath was definitely where I struggled the most. I was left not really knowing what to do next, how to proceed, and how to feel normal again after spending 6 months only thinking about this stupid disease.
Last spring, I got contacted by a cancer non-profit group to join a survivor support group, but was so reluctant to even want to talk about or face that disease again so I said no. Finally after coming back to work again, I decided I was finally mentally ready to deal with all those emotions. The 12 weeks of summer that I spent in the support group was mainly focused on this, which I highly recommend for anyone who is a survivor or in close relation to a survivor. This book put into words every emotion I was feeling and really helped me deal with feelings and thoughts that I didn’t even know I had. And even though I had some closure by the end of the 12 weeks, I guess you’ll never truly have closure due to the regular check ups, surgery scars, and little worries and reminders of what you went through. All you can do is try to remain calm, be in the present, and do your best.
So here we are one year later. For the most part, I feel pretty normal. I work out a lot more than I used to (and even just ran my second 10k – yay!), eat a lot less processed foods (I haven’t had a Coke for ages), and try to live a healthy lifestyle while still trying to be happy. People still ask me how I’m doing all the time and although it’s a tad much at times, I truly appreciate the fact that someone cares enough about me to ask. This past holiday season was a huge blessing – getting to enjoy all the awesome food while feeling lucky to be surrounded by great friends and family, and just feeling grateful not to be going through what I went through this past year. Even on my worst days, it was never as bad as those really bad days last year so for that, I’m grateful. I know these feelings of being super pumped about life will eventually fade, but part of me is hoping they won’t. So here’s to one year and hopefully many many more celebrations to come!
P.S. To my dearest husband, Wilson, I can’t thank you enough for this past year. Our 7th year will probably go down as our most difficult, but I couldn’t have made it without you. Thank you for every cold cap you put on my head, every time you got me food and medicine, every minute you spent with me at chemo, and every time you listened to me complain about my hair. I love you more than you could ever know!