So here we are. After almost 9 months of being cut, poisoned, burnt, prodded, poked and stabbed, I’ve finally reached the end of my active treatment. Good Friday this year really was a Good Friday. I’ve made it. We’ve made it.
All of my emotions are on full volume right now – extra loud and battling for my attention. I don’t know which one to listen to, so I’m swinging between crying needlessly and feeling little to nothing. I feel like the tears will keep coming too. My mum said to me earlier “are you a happy girl?” And honestly, while I’m feeling about 7000 emotions right now, I’m not sure happy is one of them.
I feel relieved. I feel scared. I feel anxious. I feel exhausted, overwhelmed, numb, sad, shell shocked, nervous, hopeful, optimistic, pessimistic and a little bit sick if I’m being honest. The whole situation still feels so surreal that I can’t even begin to process what’s happened. I’ve only just got past the finish line but the sheer enormity of everything that has happened over the last few months has come into keen focus. It’s crippling me a bit. I feel like I’ve just stepped out into the sunshine and it’s going to take me a while to adjust to the new light.
There are still so many questions. What happens next? Where do we go from here? Will cancer make another unwelcome stop in my life? When will I hear those words “no evidence of disease”? Will I hear those words? How do I find my way back to some semblance of normal life when everything has changed? When will I wake up and not think about cancer immediately? When will cancer no longer be the last thing I think about as I drift off? When will this experience seem real? When will I be able to answer the question “how are you?” with an honest answer? When will the fear of recurrence ease? Did this treatment work?
There are still so many questions. And I don’t have the answers. I don’t know that anyone does.
I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow, next week, next month, but I guess it’s just a case of getting up and getting on with it. Whatever happens. Whatever it takes. I guess I just have to remember that I’ve made it through the hardest nine months of my life – and while I may be scarred and changed both mentally and physically, I hopefully won’t ever have to go through anything like this again.
If cancer is a “journey” (and I’m still not sure that’s the right word) then after cancer is a different journey – one where the terrain is different, where the destination may have changed and where you feel like the activities you carry out on the way need to be different. While I’m not sure I’ve got the mythological new found clarity of someone who has stood up to a disease like this, I do think the parameters for my life have changed.
Triple Negative breast cancer – which doesn’t respond to hormones – is more likely to return than other types of breast cancer, but it’s more likely to do so in the first five years. So I’m going to live with that fear for some time. I’m going to be concerned about getting secondaries and every ache and pain will probably make me panic. I’m going to have to learn to measure that.
But for now, I’m going to try and take the victory of making it through these gruelling nine months and for hopefully doing it with a bit of panache. And a smile. And a bit of a laugh where I could. I’m going to celebrate my homeboy, my boob gang girls, the friends I’ve relied on physically and emotionally, the incredible NHS staff and the family who’ve struggled with having cancer emotionally. Without these people I don’t know where I would have been. I feel exceptionally lucky.
Cancer isn’t just going to disappear from my life with the end of my active treatment. But I hope after making me weaker over the last nine months, it’s going to make me stronger in the future. This is the end of one chapter, but the start of another.