Friday, Dec 19, 2014
Joyce Minor

After all this, now what now?


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Now that my cancer is gone and I'm mostly recovered, I find myself wondering, what now? Do I just go back to the same old life? Unfortunately, as I start to contemplate options for post-cancer life, all too often I feel like I'm right back in the thick of it.

Will I never stop developing new side effects from chemotherapy? And if not new effects, then the same old ones in new locations on my body?

This past week I started itching. I noticed it first on my arms - a fine rash that feels almost like sandpaper. I thought maybe I was reacting to something I'd touched while doing yard work. But soon I realized it's also on my back, where it couldn't possibly have resulted from yard work. It's not red unless I scratch, but it's amazingly resistant to treatment. I have slathered myself with lotions for several days, to no avail.

I checked the paperwork my oncologist supplied describing side effects. Skin rashes are listed along with suggested treatments, all basically what I'm already using.

I thought I'd be past all this by now. It's as if the cancer, that really isn't there anymore, is having the last laugh - trying to steal my joy in recovery.

I want to get back to normal. I want to focus on something other than cancer. I want to talk and think about anything but cancer. I know I should be out there joining in the various survivor events to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. I do care deeply about helping others avoid what I've been through. That is, and was, the whole purpose of writing about it. But now I'm so tired of the whole thing I don't want to even think about it.

I want to get back to thinking about all the things I've had to lay aside for nearly a year, like my half-finished novel, my grandchildren, and the upcoming holidays. Still, I am desperate for something completely new to focus on.

This desire has become so pervasive I'm even forgetting to ask my doctor the right questions, like what should I be doing to keep the cancer from coming back?

Obviously, I won't be having annual mammograms anymore, but is there some other test I should have periodically? Are there specific cancel-fighting foods I should eat? I'm taking prescription estrogen blockers, vitamins and other supplements, but is there more I should do?

My hair is about half an inch long now, but still as thin and wispy as it always was. When it gets long enough to style, I can quit wearing a wig. Maybe then I'll feel whole again.

I have an appointment in a few days to have my infusion port removed. To me, that is a real rite of passage from cancer patient to cancer survivor. When that bothersome thing is out of my body I know I'll feel better. But what then?

I have a new appreciation for every day, every moment, left in my life, and a new determination to live every one of them to the fullest. But doing what? Where? Why? It seems anticlimactic to go back to life as it always was. I have learned so much. Isn't there more I'm supposed to do with this knowledge?

For the time being, all I do is pray. And, of course, that's much more than it would seem. It's heart preparation. In the words of an old song, "Lead me Lord, I will follow. Lead me Lord, I will go. You have called me, I will answer. Lead me Lord, I will go.

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