Having cancer puts you in a separate category. Not one you want to be in – but one none the less.
I’ve just read ‘The Island’ by Victoria Hislop, it’s about a leper colony and initially the horror of the isolation and the separateness of living with this awful disease. Then how it becomes ordinary, and how life goes on. How living with leprosy is just how it is. There is sadness but there is fun and fulfilment. Then a cure comes and people are leaving the island and they just don’t know what to do with themselves. They have lost their ‘old selves’ and don’t know how to find a new way of being. No longer defined by disease but not really back where they belong. And life has moved on from when they stepped away and its not the same. They have to find a new place and a new way of being.
Sound familiar? Well, we don’t banish people with cancer to an island but there is often an isolated place that you inhabit. And the sense of bewilderment at the end of treatment is so complicated. You’re glad to be free of infusions, of blood tests, of frequent scans but you’re not at all sure where you fit in and what to go back to.
Of course having dealt with a vicious disease is life changing, its so hard. But there is life after cancer. It might look different but its still there. I remember having nine weeks off work when I had my last baby. Just nine weeks, (he was my fourth) and I went back to work and could barely remember how to make a bed (I’m a nurse). I had gone back to my old ward, to my old colleagues to my old speciality and I still was totally muddled. It lasted for quite a few shifts. So how much harder it must be to go back to your life after everything you go through on your cancer journey.
But go back you can. You can go back and pick up, not where you left off, but somewhere pretty close. It takes time. But bit by bit it comes back. Slowly the people who have been holding the fort need to back off and you can step in. Bits of your body may well have been operated on, scanned, prodded and injected. But its still your body. And you are still you. Scarred and scared – but still you. Everything that made you wonderful before is still there. And anything that wasn’t perfect before cancer came along still needs working on. Take it slowly, be kind to yourself, cut yourself some slack but get back where you belong. And if things need to be different – change it. If you need a special sort of help – ask for it. If you need time – take it. But come back – you can do this !