We are excited to kick-off our "Survivor Voices" series with a special essay written by Chloe, VivorCare team member and Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor.
Though Chloe is now a few years out of treatment, these words—written only five months after the conclusion of active treatment—articulate so powerfully the challenge that survivors can face as they learn to re-navigate life after cancer.
A reflection on survivorship, five months out
I think the more time passes and the further we go from treatment, the more nostalgic I am. Don’t misunderstand me, I do not mean that I miss treatment -- but I miss the routine of it, the people I saw, the care I received for four and a half months. I miss our cozy Thursday afternoons after treatment when my husband Luke would let me pick any movie I wanted and then we’d go for a long walk together around the neighborhood if I had the energy. I miss working from home on Fridays in my pajamas while Luke brought me my nausea medicine, and napping all weekend long. As crazy as life was, I feel like it was slower somehow, more routine and stable. Luke and I were talking recently about how we’re nostalgic for the routine of chemo and the comfort it brought us.
I think for a lot of people after treatment, there’s a sense of discomfort in not being checked-in on, in not seeing your doctors, nurses and social worker, once treatment ends. I feel like for me, I’m very lucky because I work at the place I was treated, so I often pop up to the 8th floor and say hi to my infusion nurse and tell her how much I miss her. It brings me such comfort to hear her tell me she misses me, too. I wish so much that other patients could see their teams more, not just for appointments or follow-ups but instead because these are the people who have seen us at our worst and still love us and cheered us on, even when we couldn’t cheer on ourselves.
I think with one-year approaching, it’s hard to understand how a year ago things were so ‘normal’ and now they’re a new kind of ‘normal.’ Life has slowed down a lot since last February, and I’m grateful for my health, but I miss the naïve-me. The me who didn’t have cancer and who was happy and not anxious every day, who didn’t feel nervous every time her head itched, or her body ached, or her neck had a tingle. It’s easy to take those things for granted and now (and for who knows how long) I’ll be hyper aware of my every feeling. After all, I am the one who discovered my own cancer. The one who realized something was wrong. The one who found a lump accidentally. I’m proud that I trusted my body and instincts enough to discover and do something when I knew there was a problem, but at the same time, I’m terrified that my body didn’t give me any signs or warnings. How do I know it won’t happen again?
Anyway, not to be a downer, I am so grateful for this year and all that it’s brought me. I’m grateful to the friends, family, coworkers, and distant acquaintances who have all come together to rally around me and my journey. I’m fortunate to have so many people in my life who care, and for that, I will always be grateful. With all that being said, so far, survivorship is really hard.