Remission: Not all it’s cracked up to be

Remission: Not all it’s cracked up to be

By Courtney

When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 29, my focus and number one goal (besides surviving) was to finish the 12 rounds of chemo, ring that bell, and get the heck out of there and never look back. I couldn’t wait to get back to my normal life routine and not be looked at with sympathy as the poor sick girl any longer.

As I think about the last four years, the thought of chemo still makes my skin crawl and gives me that feeling of instant nausea. In August 2019, I finished the 12 rounds of chemo, I rang that bell and ran — well, walked, slowly, very slowly, but you get it. I was so excited to be cancer-free and in remission, feeling like I made it and it was going to be all sunshine and daisies from that day on. HA! We all know where this is going. 

I quickly learned that remission isn’t anything like the easy walk in the park my medical team made it seem like after you leave the treatment stage. It’s not a goal or an end, it’s a dam in between that’s just as scary and unknown as sitting in that chemo chair being pumped full of poison.

Remission is like unpacking your bag after you get home from summer camp as a child, but instead of dirty laundry, shoes filled with leftover sand, and a heart full of fun memories, it’s filled with the physical, mental, and financial wreckage you have gone through and collected during your cancer treatment like some shitty participation trophies. As you dump this huge bag out on the floor, towards the bottom you find the giant pile of fear and stress of recurrence.

I am now three years into remission and I have not even fully unpacked my cancer remission bag. Every time I feel a lump, or something doesn’t feel right, I panic. The fear that my body has once again let me down floods my mind and takes over my body with stress and anxiety until my oncologist assures me I’m still clear.

Remission has taught me some important lessons during my time in this strange in between space. I have learned to listen to my body and take the time when I need to rest and recharge, reminding myself that I am not like others my age. To have faith and trust in my medical team when I have fears of recurrence. To love and appreciate my body for the truly remarkable things it has accomplished and survived. Finally, I have learned to be patient and kind with myself with what I see in the mirror, and during this continuing journey after cancer treatment.

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