Maybe I do not want to suck it up! Seriously, how many times do we just dig deep and cast our feelings aside in an effort to appear strong and resilient, when all we want to do is break down and cry?
I do not know about you, but I hate to cry. I do. I cannot stand the way it makes me feel, I detest the tell-tale swollen and puffy eyes, not to mention it ruins your contacts. The only way I try to describe it is some people do not like to drink alcohol because of the feeling of loss of self-control; well, crying is my kryptonite.
I have cried more in the past week plus, then I have in the past several months combined. I *nearly* cried at Crossfit this week. Can you even imagine THAT spectacle? Phew, what a close call.
Two of my friends are struggling; they have finished or are finishing their cancer treatments. Everyone thinks they know about compassion in the cancer world, but little do many know that the actual real battle begins when treatment winds down and immediately thereafter. It is a misperception that once a person finishes their cancer treatment, that they are okay and on their path to stronger living. In these now much quieter months of recovery, without daily medical visits and with the sudden cessation of meal deliveries or regular check-ins, cancer survivors start to go nuts. Yes, we do.
Many times in our path to recovery, we are unable to resume our regular lives that we had pre-cancer; recovery has placed newfound limitations on our careers leaving us with part-time work, if at all. The financial implications of reduced or non-existent work hours leave massive piles of bills, many of which are medical in nature – the procedures or treatments that may have saved your very life.
The fatigue and residual pain is a constant reminder that you have just waged a monumental war on something nearly larger than life. You struggle with your premature and uncomfortable sense of “normal” in a post-cancer era. The pulling and tugging on tight scars has you slowing down and remembering to be gentler.
The mental games begin: fears seem to shift and expand overnight, not unlike those small capsules you put into a glass of water and have grown 1000x their size while you were sleeping. Fear of recurrence, it follows you everywhere…..and I mean everywhere. Suck it up, buttercup? I think not.
All it takes is seeing a stranger in the grocery store wearing the scarf on her head and lacking eyebrows, you know….you know she’s engaged in her own battle. Your heart rate starts to increase and that nagging headache starts to worry you a little more; you wonder if a call to your doctor for some reassurance is in order.
As people start to lose their battles around you, from cancer, even if it is a type totally unrelated to your own, you start to unravel. Wakes become harder to attend as your own mortality and your fears escalate into their own sense of *normal*.
Another friend of mine has been fighting hard; okay, she has been fighting harder than hard and is in a losing battle. I did not expect the intensity of the emotions I have been trying to process over the past week. I have guilt, a lot of it. Survivor’s guilt. Friendship guilt. Mother’s guilt. You name it. I have lost control and cried harder than when I was even going through my own traipse in cancerland. Suck it up, buttercup? I. Just. Cannot.
I am over five years out since I completed my treatment, yet, I still have many of the same fears that my more recent cancer counterparts are experiencing. Sure, with time, the fear subsides and with the magic milestone of hitting five years, I rest a teeny bit more reassured. However, statistics are just that – numbers that are there to purportedly help seal your fate, but in reality, sometimes life has a different plan that what the measurements of data predict.
Learning how to cope is just that, each different life experience is a true test of how we cope. We cannot control our cancer diagnoses, the side effects, the residual pains or even the day to day fears. However, we CAN control specifically how we cope in all of our steps in cancer land.
Everyone of us can also control all of the stresses in the general demands of being an adult; such as those weekly challenges in crazy and rude family members, irrational bosses, needy parents, and arduous children or balancing that full plate with work, family, you-time and more.
Once a former boss of mine sat me down and crafted a drawing after I was complaining about being a control-freak and having several instances where things were rampantly out…of….my…..control. I learned a lot that day, but it took my cancer diagnosis to really ingest the value of the lesson learned. My REACTION to what happens around me is the best ACTION to undertake.
We are in control, believe it or not, of whether we feel sad or happy. We can think happy thoughts, or we can be consumed and swallowed by sad thoughts. We will be dealt a hand of cards that is just a mystery and we will never know why it happened. Instead of getting caught up in the negativity of not understanding the bad things that happen to us all, we have to find the light – the guiding force whether it is a new friend met through a cancer diagnosis, a lifestyle change, or the chance to slow down and smell the roses.
How do I reassure my newer cancer warriors that it gets better? You just do. You pull up your big girl pants and you pave the way. Suck it up, buttercup – shed those tears, pound more weights and skip, trip, fall down and get back up again, and again, and again, and again.