When treatment ends it can feel like you went from having an army behind you to being all alone. It may feel odd to miss anything about treatment but there is nothing quite like the support you receive during this time. As much as every cell in my body wanted to be done with chemo and radiation when it ended, my heart was robbed of the support. I still had my incredible caregivers, my mom and my husband nearby but even they had to move on with their lives. Mom had to move back home and husby had to work more shifts in order to keep us afloat. Eventually, I spent less time at medical appointments, less time with my favourite people, and more time alone.
The emotional transition from patient to person was lonely. I tried to reconnect with friends who I’d lost touch with but that too felt isolating. I found myself having a hard time relating to friends or strangers who weren’t part of my cancer story. I couldn’t connect with people who didn’t understand what it was like to discuss treatment options, to hear survival statistics, or to have a roster of doctors on call.
Nothing shakes your perspective more than being confronted with your own mortality. Once you’ve crossed that bridge you can never go back. You are forever someone who sees the shit we think about 99% of the time for what it is, utterly trivial.
Through my experience, I developed a profound necessity for purpose combined with an extremely low tolerance for the inconsequential. This view has made me more focused on the people I love and more driven to accomplish meaningful goals. On the other hand, this view has made me more confrontational when I feel wronged, more demanding of my loved ones, and more selfish with my time. For instance, I so value deep conversations with friends that I actively avoid superficial catch-ups with acquaintances. This has led me to let go of extraneous friendships and to only seek out worthwhile new ones. I’ve gone from being a complete people pleaser to charging ahead with uncomfortable conversations, which has made for some awkward family dinners. I no longer bother with frivolous emails from unnecessarily stressed out co-workers, instead, I complete the required task and move on with my day. I guard every minute of my free time like its the last minute I have on earth. I don’t ever say no to a vacation (not that I ever have, let’s get real) but I never feel guilty for indulging.
Transitioning from cancer patient to person of the world was uncomfortable, however, I like the changes I’ve made in myself because of it. In a way, the isolation after treatment steered me towards fellow survivors and I’ve since found a new method of helping people through writing. I love that I can connect with people who have also struggled and let them know they are not alone.