Have you ever watched the popular HGTV series, House Hunters International? This show highlights an American family that lives in a mega mansion with two amazing jobs in a Major USA Metropolitan area, three kids in private schools, and family and friends by their sides as they entertain them every weekend. Then abruptly, they decide to sell their home, move their entire family to Siberia, without jobs, no language skills, no family or friends, and move to a 1 bedroom flat off the grid?
Cancer patients are forced to make those kinds of dramatic changes, but not through any decisions of their own. Over the 6 years that I have been writing this Blog, there is one thing I notice about cancer survivors. They tend to fit into two categories: (1) Those who have been able to adjust and change their lives after cancer treatment even if they have limitations from cancer; and (2) Those who are still trying to get back to the way things were before cancer and remain stuck.
Kelly from Missouri first wrote to me when she was going through Chemotherapy after a double mastectomy because of breast cancer. After treatment she was having a difficult time adjusting to life after cancer with bone density issues, lymphedema, and emotional adjustments that come along with being a cancer patient. BUT THEN she and her husband made a life-changing decision after the death of her mom. They moved back to the farm where Kelly had grown up. Suddenly, Kelly started to flourish as she began to raise all kinds of farm animals, run, manage and expand the farm! It is incredible what she and her husband have created. Kelly’s animals bring her much healing! Kelly said it is only in hindsight that she realizes how different she now is with different interests than her pre-cancer self. A series of changes brought her to this new place. Kelly says that it also involves “making different friends too. Some old friends who survived my transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor start to drift when they see you really are different.”
My sister, Diann, is two years out from treatment for Stage 3 breast cancer and just finally finished having procedures done after reconstructive surgery. Diann has made the necessary adjustments to her life without much complaint even though she lives with chronic pain from Aromatase Inhibitors, arm and truncal lymphedema, and heart issues from chemo. Diann has said yes to many opportunities which she would have turned down before cancer especially traveling. Even though she has to wear her lymphedema sleeve and make substantial adjustments while traveling, she has done it. Diann says “It has made a huge difference in helping me to adjusting to life after cancer.”
Joann had an extremely difficult time during cancer treatment for a rare cancer. It was beyond grueling and treatment left her almost immobilized. But when she got to the point she could not take it any more, she decided to sell her house, move to a 55-plus community, and forced herself to go to social events. Well Joann, who had been single for decades, met the love of her life at one of those events! He was also a cancer survivor and understood all of her difficulties!
While I was writing this post, I realized that even though I have made dramatic changes post cancer, there are still a few things I’ve been hanging onto from my pre-cancer life that need to be changed. Today, I put some steps in motion to make those changes.
If you are struggling with trying to return to life before cancer treatment, I recommend you make a change. Take that first step. No matter how large or small, it will help move you forward!