Is there life after surviving cancer? 

First thing, a few words of encouragement! Browsing through the profiles of the friends I’ve made on my cancer journey – after finishing chemotherapy myself –  I most certainly see their situation in a new light. This is for all of you going through chemotherapy right now: 

Your situation right now sucks, but it’ll be better. Hang in there, as soon as it’s over you’ll feel much better again. Believe me, it won’t last forever!

I’m slowly becoming myself again, trying to pick up where I left. Energy levels rising by the minute. Tasks and daily endeavors that have been demanding and exhausting for such a long time are now executed effortless again. Ok, I’m exaggerating now, but you get the point. I’m taking more and more initiative, chatting with friends, getting out more and a ton of other stuff that has been in a waiting position all summer. 

Fresh start with flowers on the first day of work after chemotherapy ended
This week I started back at work part time and it felt incredibly good. My colleagues are supportive and I can see that they are happy that I’m back. Sometimes it even feels like nothing bad has happened, that everything is just like before I got the diagnosis. In points in time I feel perfectly “normal”. (I put normal in quotation marks because everytime I tell someone this, they point out that I’ll never be normal. A price I’ll gladly pay for being me.) I don’t know if it’s because I’m not able to take all of this in or if it actually just doesn’t bother me. It’s a bit confusing because it’s not how you’re “supposed” to feel about this disease. But I guess every reaction is valid. Right now I’m so damn happy and I’m just enjoying every second of it. 

I take notes on everything!
There’s only few thing I’m dealing with right now, the worst is my short term memory, or lack thereof; I really struggle to remember things. I have to write everything down, so that it does not slip my mind. Sometimes I even get lost in the middle of a conversation; looking dumbstruck at the other person, totally mystified by their apparent babbling. I heavily rely on my note app on my phone at the moment. Knowing that my memory isn’t up to speed is an advantage in itself, because then I can take action. I have decided for myself that all the changes in my life after chemotherapy, being permanent or not, aren’t necessarily for the worse, it’s just a different life I lead now. A life where I have to learn how to navigate in a new manner to cope. But I’m still the captain of my life. A pirate type of captain might I add; I have a huge scar to prove it.

Adding to my pirate or weirdness factor, my physiotherapist noticed a small swelling under my left arm, which could be lymphedema. She put some tape there to keep it down. This coincided with my first visit to a spa facility in a year and I sure looked noticeable.
I was at the oncologist last week, wrapping it all up, she was really amazing and answered all my questions – I brought a list that had been long in the making and wasn’t exactly growing thinner as time went by – and she did it in a manner that made me feel both composed and equipped enough afterwards to start my new life on a positive note. There’s basically only two major differences for me compared to average women my age going forward; I’m going to start on antihormones this week and I’m going to get a mammography once a year to keep an eye on the breast that is still there. Next time for the latter is in April, but if they find anything cancerous there, it would be considered a different cancer altogether and to me that sounds like really small odds. Nothing I can influence or do anything about in any case. 

Concerning the antihormones they actually cut the mortality of my breast cancer in half in a 10 year perspective. It’s naturally a fine balance between side effects and preventing cancer recurrence. Ultimately you could argue that killing me now would be the most efficient way to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back, but in that case I’d rather take a chance (sorry for the cheesy example). I’ve seen people on both sides of that equilibrium feeling unhappy with what they got, and rightfully so – of course it sucks – but to me one is still far worse than the other, so I choose to lean heavily on the side of side effects and see the antihormones as a gift. Having triple positive breast cancer means there is a lot of things that can stop the cancer cells from growing, should there be any left in my body. And sure, the side effects of the antihormones doesn’t sound all too appealing, but rather that than having the cancer come back. I’ll stretch a long way to make this work. 

Because if it does come back it kills. The only breast cancer that kills is the metastatic one, also called stage IV. For myself at least, until I sit in that situation I’m going to feel grateful for what I got and do everything in my power to not get there. Taking the antihormones is the one and only thing I can influence. I don’t know if I beat cancer, but no matter what it has nothing to do with me, I’m not a better fighter for making it or not. It is not in my hands. I’m just going to be thankful as long as I’m here.

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