You don’t just ‘get over’ cancer. Your body might be injured and your mind might feel scarred. You can’t forget it happened. Recovery can be slow and you might not return to the old you.
Maybe you are missing a few organs and the ones you are left with are damaged. You might be on tablets forever, or have a chronic, debilitating condition. For myself, I’ve learnt how to exist with a temperamental and painful bowel, with gradually decreasing frustration! I still have embarrassing, awful moments – rolling around the floor in agony in the middle of a Sardinian piazza was not a highlight. But the fact that I went to Sardinia in the first place is a triumph.
Hospitals and doctors take control of your body which can threaten independence. All interests had been replaced by a fixation on health. At the end of treatment, you can suddenly make decisions again, which can lead to a kind of decision vertigo. Are we making the right ones? What are your values now? Who even are you?
Meanwhile, you watch others continue to lead their normal life; they’ve never faced cancer. And you wonder how they do it and how you ever did. You’re struggling to find your way back.
It doesn’t help when health practitioners are ever-optimistic with recovery times. I’ve been so angry with myself for not recovering from a major surgery in the ‘3-5 days’ the handout suggested I’d be in hospital for. A two week hospital stay made me feel a failure. The same for chemo: I’ve felt useless for recovering so slowly.
It is only after speaking to other people that I’ve found this is actually normal.
I feel like a dreadful failure. Taking so long to recover, the cognitive impairment from the treatments, being so upset, so depressed and so physically weak. I put a good face on but inside I am ashamed and humiliated by my patheticness.