7 Surprises in Survivorship

Survivorship has been a whirlwind of emotions, follow up scans, adventures, and changes. I’ve shared a lot about the changes that have happened post cancer, including a newfound belief in miracles, the importance of nutrition, the desire to serve and find my “what” in life, and how much I actually enjoy exercising, but there is much more to my survivorship journey.

In addition to these experiences, I started thinking about other things that have surprised me in survivorship that I haven’t necessarily talked about in a public forum. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences and how they compare/contrast with mine so we can continue to grow and process together through surprises that occur through cancer/post-cancer life.

Here are 7 surprises I’ve experienced in survivorship:

  1. Post traumatic symptoms – The drawers in my parent’s guest bathroom where my medications and syringes were. Christmas music. Difficulty swallowing pills. Seeing Press-n-Seal at a store or someone’s house (this covered my CVC line for every shower I took for 6 months). These are just a few things that have caused me to stop in my tracks, knock the wind out of me, or have made me anxious. I didn’t think of cancer as “trauma” but through counseling, I have learned that cancer really is categorized as being a “traumatic experience.” Although these symptoms are real, my counselor shared that making new memories with these triggers would help me move forward, like doing new activities around Christmastime unrelated to treatment. I don’t always know what will be a trigger, but I am navigating through it as things come up.
  2. Battles with isolation – I have always been an extrovert to the 100th percentile. Ever since cancer treatment, though, I find that I spend much more time by myself than I used to. I really enjoy processing my journey on walks, writing poetry, and creating blog posts. These activities aren’t negative, but I often feel a pull to engage more with these things on my own than with other people. I face a daily battle of feeling like I’m a burden for others outside of my family with all that I’ve been through and what I currently face. But the more I’ve slowly been reaching out to current and new friends, the more I’m falling in love with doing life with others and am so encouraged that people are willing to walk alongside me in my journey, too. The battles in our minds can be so difficult to overcome, but the more we share with each other, I believe they can be defeated! {See Galatians 6:2 & 2 Corinthians 10:5b}
  1. Difficulty remembering what my life was like before cancer – This one is odd to me. I feel like the events that happened through cancer were so big and drastic, that they took up most of my “brain space.” Sometimes I can’t remember what I used to talk about or how I used to treat others (or even myself) before cancer. It’s like “pre-cancer amnesia.” My counselor said that it’s normal that passions change, amplify, or even redirect after cancer treatment. It’s okay that things have changed because I have changed. And even though life looks different than I thought it would, I still have purpose here on earth. I have accepted that this is all part of my journey so now I’m embracing it and I am excited to continue to move forward!
  2. I became bolder – I have taken several personality assessments and every time I get to the part that talks about “my greatest fear,” it always reads the same: rejection. In the past, I have made a lot of decisions out of fear in order to be accepted by others. Even though this fear continues to lurk, it doesn’t have a hold on me anymore. Life is so short and I want to live with honesty, boldness, grace, and love in all that I do, even if that means being rejected. {Acts 28:31}
  3. The journey has become just as important as the destination – I think for most of my life I have always been trying to reach a date/goal: a vacation, a certain weight, a promotion, etc. I remember “wishing time away” so I could “just be there already” since oftentimes the distance to the destination was challenging or felt mundane. But becoming cancer free was a destination I wanted to reach that I wasn’t guaranteed to arrive to. I had to learn to find joy in the journey and survivorship has allowed me to fall in love with every day that I have. I’m no longer wishing time away but soaking in every moment, even the challenges that I face. I didn’t even realize how much I struggled with this until processing it through survivorship.
  4. I am much more emotional – If I didn’t already wear my emotions on my sleeve enough, I have become more in tune with my emotions now than ever before. Excitement is amplified and heartbreak cuts deeper. During cancer treatment I had to be focused with mental grit, like a warrior in a grueling battle against my tumor. Honestly, I didn’t have time to process or feel all my emotions as I was just trying to stay alive. I am so thankful that I journaled because now I can read entries from treatment and experience it with new eyes and a clear mind. I think for the first time, I’m really taking everything in. It’s emotional, but I’m okay with that. I now love deeper, laugh harder, cry longer (sorry Wes, you’re amazing), and smile bigger.
  5. I’m not the only one who feels this way or has gone through these things – This surprised me so much. The more I open up about subjects like struggles with fertility, battles with anxiety, or even struggling with planning activities past my 3-month scans, the more people that have reached out to me saying, “me too.” Nothing about cancer is “normal,” yet I somehow sort my thoughts into two categories: “standard cancer thoughts” and “only you think that way.” Sharing my story openly with others has helped me process, relate with, and discuss how we can push through. We are so much alike as cancer survivors and human beings. And this is why I am not afraid to share this list of surprises in this post!

There are many things that have taken me by surprise through survivorship, but I am so grateful for the love and support of those around me who walk this road with me. If you’re struggling with these things or any unspoken emotion/experience, know that you aren’t alone. Our expectations of what life should look like aren’t usually lined up with reality. But that doesn’t mean we can’t heal, grow, find joy, and move forward. I encourage you to share your story with someone you trust or send me an email and we can start a dialogue about your journey. I would love to hear from you.

I hope this post was a positive “surprise” for you if you thought you were alone in any of your thoughts and experiences. God is with us and I am here for you and praying for you!

God bless you!

Sparkle on,
Nicole Body

 

 

What surprises have you faced through survivorship? Cancer treatment? Did you relate to any of these? I know the journey can be hard and oftentimes very surprising but always remember that you aren’t alone. Someone else is feeling or thinking similar things to you as we navigate this path that we walk together! Please share in the comments surprises you have experienced!

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