Hello, you’re here!
You must be feeling relieved. It’s over! I bet you feel like there’s just this space, and everything’s opened up in front of you. Oh my goodness how are you going to spend the time now? How fantastic. What are you doing to celebrate?
Ah, I see. You’re there.
There you are.
Things can feel a little tough there can’t they. I get it.
You really want to celebrate and feel excited, but something’s stopping you. Fear? Maybe. Tiredness? Probably. Overwhelm? Definitely.
I’m not surprised. I mean, I’m really sorry you don’t feel amazing, but I’m not surprised. And you won’t be either when you take a minute to review what you’ve been through. You’ve already been told it’s like you were hit by a bus and your body is recovering from it, you knew that. You didn’t think it would actually feel like that but you quickly realised indeed it did and you put up with it, because it was making you better, it was saving you and it was for the greater good.
That bit you got.
What’s harder to get is this bit now.
How come it feels so empty? Why don’t you want to get excited and be ‘grateful for everyday’™.
What was it they told you about going back home? When did they mention how you should feel after the last scan? Did you miss the memo about how to manage fatigue and what to do to keep healthy and well, how to manage friends who drop away or manage your emotions when they feel so out of control?
It’s OK, you didn’t really miss anything. It’s just that no-one told you.
I mean, it’s not like they kept something from you. It’s just that if someone told you that life after cancer was going to be equally and sometimes harder than life during cancer I’m not sure you’d have really taken it in. Frankly it’s depressing to learn that and who’s going to try and force that message through when it may not even happen?
There’s some reverse psychology logic happening in this – if it’s not known about it may not happen. But the statistics speak for themselves – not only are people affected by cancer more likely to have a diagnosis of anxiety or depression, it’s also harder to diagnose, meaning support for the mental and emotional aspects of recovery will be far less likely to be found.
Finding life hard after cancer does happen and it’s not all celebrations and gratefulness. The reality is that this isn’t uncommon and this isn’t an anomaly with you responding poorly to the adjustment. This is a trodden path of life after cancer.
Learning from the theory behind Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in cancer we gain perspective on what’s happening. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop following traumatic events.
Traditional research into the disorder looks at those who’ve been to war, in natural disasters and serious accidents, but understanding that nearly 1 in 4 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer experienced PTSD symptoms is an important discovery into learning about how a cancer experience impacts us mentally as well as physically.
No-one questions the seriousness of the medical aspects of cancer, but in learning about the sensitivities we might experience emotionally and mentally as a result of cancer, we might start to gain understanding and empathy for ourselves in our recovery.
As hard as it can be, our new normal is navigating the new ways we might now process information, the new ways we react to things that may previously have had no impact and the new ways we may now want to live, take charge and have change in our lives. But we can only do these things when we feel less overwhelmed and tired, less fearful for our future and more capable, and we can only get there with understanding ourselves as we are now and knowing how to navigate our selves gently (and sometimes less gently) along this path.
In this series, I’m going to cover some of the main topics we consider in our lives after cancer. Each could be a book in itself and I have no doubt we’ll discover some amazing resources about them in the process too. I’ll cover some of the ways we might be holding onto feelings about these topics that may be helping or hindering us, and bring in learning from working with hundreds of other cancer survivors in how they navigate this life after cancer experience.
Broadly, the topics will include: relationships and friends, fertility and family, work, anxiety and mental health, exercise, fitness and nutrition. I’m not a dietician, a doctor or a personal trainer. I’m an Ex-NHS health professional, a Health Psychology graduate and NLP coach, and a cancer survivor, and I’m excited to bring this perspective to these blogs in the areas we struggle with frequently after cancer.
You don’t have to feel guilty for not feeling amazing you’re alive. You don’t have to pretend everything’s OK all the time now you’re out of the woods and you don’t have to navigate this strange time on you’re own.
To access the Moving Forward from Cancer support community and webinars, go here.