Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beyond Cancer

My blog encourages looking ahead with hope and thinking positive, so it’s humbling to admit how often I find myself looking back, acutely aware of what I was doing this time last year.

One year ago this week, my first chemo treatment loomed. Now, six months of chemo and radiation are six months behind me. My first set of scans and exams show no evidence of cancer. I feel healthy, and unless friends and family are just being nice, I look healthy, too. My scarves and never-worn wig are all packed away. My hair is back and I am active and able to do everything I did before.
Most days, I dare to believe that we kicked cancer’s butt.

 And yet.
The fear of recurrence still loiters inside me. Turns out, the Cancer journey doesn’t end with diagnosis and treatment. There’s a stage called beyond.
The shadow of cancer is not easy to shake.
Last week, a neighbor asked me why I still have the chemo port imbedded in my chest. I told her they usually leave it in about a year, and I purposely haven’t asked the doctor about taking it out. Part of me wants to keep it for the same reason I stowed away the scarves and unworn wig—hoping as long as I own them, I’ll never need them again.
“Ah, bargaining,” my neighbor said.
As soon as she said it, it hit me—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Bargaining is one of the stages of grief!
I keep thinking I should be done with grieve and fear by now, that I should have arrived at acceptance. Then I remind myself that grief has no timeframe—it is not a straight line.
I have a newfound respect for every cancer survivor striding beyond cancer to their five-year cancer-free anniversary.
How did I never see their courage before or realize they take each determined step with the shadow of cancer still nipping at their heels?


  1. Carol,
    I think this blog post is a good reminder for everyone who has a friend or loved one with the shadow of cancer.

    I think we forget about the ongoing scans and just are happy they are out of chemo and other poisons. We think and hope all is well and will be so forever more.

    Love the illustration of grief... it really is a jumble and I think I would draw that line a little differently at the end.

    Keep writing about it. You give us valuable insight into how we can be there for our loved ones.


    1. Hi Chris, cancer has helped me realize everyone has stuff and lots of people live with all kinds of illness and that hope for "forever more"
      I'm interested in how your line at the end of grief differs. Hopefully, it's pointing up

  2. Carol thanks for sharing this with us. I think your drawing really captures how grieving all kinds of losses goes. It is a messy process , unique to each person with a real tangle of emotions.

  3. Mimi, tangled and messy are great words for grief.
    Thanks for the reminder that grief applies to all kinds of losses.

  4. Hi Carol,
    I was introduced to your blog by Sister Nancy Butler yesterday, since you and I have something in common: cancer, and blogging about cancer. My site is www.beautythroughthebeast. Please check it out and drop me a line. I come to Cape May as often as possible, it is a sanctuary for me; I live 2/5 hours north of exit zero. I would love to meet you on one of my stays and have coffee or a walk on the boardwalk!

    That said, I can relate to the "beyond" part of a cancer diagnosis. I am in-between surgeries, done with chemo, and didn't need radiation, gratefully. I do hear many "you're done, you're healthy, now move on!" comments, and I don't seem to be as excited as them, because, like my oncologist recently told me, the cancer could come back in other parts of my body. I certainly don't choose to focus on that, but I keep it stowed away as a dose of reality.

    I hope to hear back from you!

  5. Hi Chiara, not dwelling and keeping it "stowed away as a dose of reality" is a nice way of describing the challenge of getting beyond cancer. Thanks for sharing that.
    I stopped by your website and admire your courage in putting yourself out there.
    Cape May is my sanctuary in many ways, too, and I'm so grateful to live within a mile of Exit 0. Coffee or a walk when you're in town sounds like a plan.
    all the best,

    1. Great, I look forward to meeting when I'm in town next, which is hopefully soon!