It’s nearly impossible to experience a life-threatening illness like cancer and not be changed in some way. Many feel adrift with over-whelming emotions about cancer coming back.
If you struggle with difficult emotions speak up and seek help even though it may be uncomfortable. You may find it easier to keep silent rather than express how you feel, but working through difficult emotions after cancer is just as necessary as physical healing. Remember “to heal it, you have to feel it.”
Many feel lost in translation over the definition of “survivor.” Does survivorship begin at the time of diagnosis or when treatment is over? You get to decide the right answer. Don’t worry if you can’t answer this question. This is not a time when you are supposed to know all the answers.
The crossroads of “patient” and “former patient” is a good place to begin considering the emotional toll of your experience. Making time for this work allows you to reconnect with yourself and think about what you need to trust yourself - and life - again. Some helpful wisdom to lean on is remembering the distinction between “cured” and “healed”. Many mistake treatment for the healing. Emotional healing requires a deeper inquiry and is an opportunity to understand what you are left with emotionally.
As you practice opening up, you may start talking to others only to learn that they are surprised you still want to talk about cancer. Remind yourself that although treatment is over, the emotional fallout is not. Those who haven’t faced a life-threatening illness don’t understand the depth of lingering pain and haunting emotion associated with the diagnosis and invasive treatments.
Another challenge you may be up against is feeling that you have no one to turn to. You believe you have exhausted your circle of support. You don’t speak up because you don’t want to burden anyone anymore. There are people who still care. Find them. Open up to them. You will feel better for it.
Sometimes you need to lean on professionals to help navigate persistent, difficult feelings. Patti Kwok, ARNP, in the Survivorship Clinic, is available to talk no matter where you are in your cancer recovery. Classes and webinars are other places to find tools for recovering from cancer. These free classes put you with other kindred spirits who may be a lifeline and provide an empathetic shoulder and bond.
Remember, life is lived forward, but understood backwards. If you want to move forward, you must consider your past and how cancer affected you. By doing this you will find yourself less adrift and instead of experiencing emotional resistance you will move forward with emotional resiliency.
To learn more about the survivorship clinic and/or classes, please call 206-320-8266.
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