On August 17, 2015, I heard three words that would change my life forever. At the time I did not realize how much my life would change.
Life before cancer was filled with dreams, opportunities, and curiosity about what the future will hold. I thought this was finally my time to shine. My time to figure out who I am and what I wanted out of life. I had spent the past several years before this dealing with severe anxiety, ptsd, and depression. I felt like I was behind my friends in figuring out who I was and what I wanted. I was determined to catch up and become the person that I was meant to be. I was independent and living on my own which was a huge step for me. I was learning how to be responsible and becoming an adult. The cord that connected me to my parents was being severed as I learned to do things for myself and make my own decisions.
Then August 17, 2015 came along and life was like a tornado being blown in many different directions. Eventually the tornado calmed down a little and I was able to take a breath. Still unaware of what my future will hold. I thought to myself I just need to get through treatment and then everything will go back to normal.
Well that never happened. It’s almost seven years later and I’m still dealing with cancer. I have treatment every three weeks. Not only am I dealing with cancer, but also the changes that have come along with it.
I went from a strong independent young adult, to days where I feel like I’m 80 years old. To be honest, 80-year-old days are happening more and more. There are days that I can’t get out of bed and need help to do the simplest things. Things that I took for granted at one point. Now wishing that I was able to do them again.
One of the biggest changes is now having a personal support worker (PSW) come in to help me shower and to do other daily tasks that I can no longer do myself. When the PSW first came to my house, she looked at me and asked me where her patient was. I told her it was me, and she replied, “you don’t look like you need help.” Hearing that increased the loss and embarrassment I feel over not being able to do things myself. It was hard enough to accept and ask for help.
My body isn’t the same as it was almost seven years ago. I see the scars — both physical and emotional — every day. The chronic pain, the debilitating fatigue, and chemo brain are all things that I deal with on a daily basis. I feel like my body has betrayed me and that is hard to deal with.
I miss the way my body was before cancer. Dealing with all these changes is hard. It’s hard to accept this as my new normal. I should be living life like a normal person in their 40s instead of what I deal with on a daily basis.
Cancer isn’t just about getting treatment to save my life, it is also about all the complications and side effects that come with it. The truth is, I’m having a hard time accepting this. There is a part of me that is embarrassed that at my age I have to walk with a cane or walker. That I have to have a PSW come in to help with things I should be able to do on my own. I’m frustrated and angry; I shouldn’t have to go through this. I realize that even though it has been almost seven years I’m still grieving all the changes and loss that comes with cancer.
Losing my independence is something that has really affected me. I look at the person I was before and I don’t recognize the person I am now. There are days where I see glimpses of the old me and it breaks my heart that I’m no longer that person. I’m scared of what the future will hold. I’m scared that things will get to the point where I will no longer be able to live on my own. I worry that at some point I won’t be able to see glimpses of the old me and not accept the person I have become.