The following is a chapter from my blog book, PTSD and Cancer: Lost, alone and afraid. After treatment for cancer, I was confused and lost and looking for my new identity as a survivor.
December 26, 2009
I am about to write again. I feel alone in my thoughts and struggles in adjusting to and accepting my cancer – there are very few who know my secret fears and I am thankful I at least have them.
In these recent weeks, I experienced my first “flashbacks.” Memories pop into my head; me before cancer, during cancer and this last year of recovery. I didn’t know what to do with them. I thought it was best to hide them from all I love dearly but the stress of pretending to be well mentally and emotionally was like the weight of an elephant sitting on my chest and I was caving in.
Through Cancer Care, a web site service, I was encouraged by a social worker to slow down and allow myself to find the pain of my torment. My over commitment and over busyness was a symptom of something churning inside me, a pain and loss I was running away from.
So, if you are happy to hear my diagnose that I am in complete remission and want to leave my history there, then you have my blessing to uncheck the box to receive my Caring Bridge blog. I am about to delve into my sorrow and my loss; it is a time for me to grieve and heal.
Caring Bridge has been and is an outlet for me, a therapeutic outlet. It was my life line all during my treatment and writing helped keep me sane. I can’t hide what has built and continues to build inside of me any longer. Dale said I should go back to journaling on Caring Bridge because there may be one other person who reads my posts and they might be strengthened in their life or encouraged that they need not go at it alone – hiding and suffering in their aloneness like I am.
I feel like my treatment phase was Book I. Book II was my release from the hospital and coming home and being caught off guard by the psychological aftermath of cancer. Perhaps this is Book III, my story of accepting and adjusting to living with cancer in remission and finally allowing myself to recall and relive my suffering and pain and fear. I valiantly tolerated the chemo and kept a great attitude all through treatment. However, I was terrified of my transplant, scared to death, if you will.
Here is my first entry and may my complete healing begin.
Yesterday, Christmas day, during a quiet moment, I compared the three Cyndi’s from the last three Christmases. Christmas past is locked into my memory like photos in a photo album; the pictures are reminders of times past, little historical markers of one’s life. Yesterday I looked at my “photo album.”
I have a picture of myself from Christmas ’07 sitting at the dining table with my family after dinner. We were so us, predictably us with a predictable life; very happy, indeed. Little did I know, my life was about to drastically change . . . I had four more months of a “normal” and routine life. In that Christmas picture, my lymph system and my bone marrow were full of cancer. Snap this photo, snap that photo; posing with the family, innocently unaware . . . photos taken of a Cyndi that will never experience blissful innocence again. I grieved for her.
Christmas ’08. Sweet, blessed relief I made it through all my treatments! I was home in our newly built house, spending Christmas with my husband and children and extended family. I was home. With the relief of cancer behind me and the joy of the Christmas season, there was no time to think about what the last 7 1/2 months was all about. I was skinny, I was smiling, and I was with my family – that’s all that mattered.
This Christmas ’09, I find myself in need of safety and security. I tried to walk with long strides of confidence like I used to but I am finding my steps are small and I would much rather walk within my house and all that is familiar than to go out in that big world and exclaim, “Ta dah! Here I am!” No, I did that once and it deceived me; what you think is forever changed too quickly, it’s not safe out there.
It is time to grieve again. It is time to say good-bye to Cyndi of ’07. I tried so hard in these recent months to be just like her and I can’t, I am changed – I may look like the same person to family and friends, they see and remember Cyndi of ’07. But cancer invaded my body and it also invaded my mind and emotion; what used to be is no longer.
As I grieve and allow myself to walk through this process, the timid Cyndi of ’09 will heal mentally and emotionally. Who will this healed Cyndi be? Hopefully, I will listen and be an encourager. I will have a new strength to share with others and give back to those who have walked with me through this time as I am accepting myself, adjusting to my new self and a little shifting of life goals.
I ended my quiet time thinking about my family and my extended family, those I was about to share Christmas dinner with. The foundation I stand on is my faith, my husband is my pillar, my children are my joy and hope for my future and my extended family encircles me giving me that protection and safety I feel I need right now. The safety and security of my family; those I am so very thankful for. . .