By Kayla Tremblett
Two years ago I was released from the Stem Cell Transplant Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital. Two years ago, a 12″ tube was taken out of my neck and chest and stitched up. Two years ago, I walked out the front doors of the beige and mint green lobby and into the cold March air.
I walked to my car with my mom and remembered the months leading up to this moment — the pain, the extreme exhaust and the loss of my identity. I remembered lying in bed for days, not even having enough strength or energy to sit up. If I could make it to the kitchen once a week, it was a miracle.
Now, two years later, I remember all these moments, but what I am worried about is something bigger: the rest of my life. For the last few years, after my second diagnosis, I started to worry about WTF I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life. During those endless days where I lay in bed and looked at the cracks in my ceiling, all I could really think about was the fact that I was screwed. During treatment, my goal was to graduate university. Now, in remission and into survivorship, my goal is to — what? I have no idea.
Cancer sucks, but the aftermath sucks more. During my treatment, I kept my eyes set on graduation and that was the only thing really keeping me going. Now that I am done with that chapter of my life, it feels like it almost never happened? As I am trying to move on and get my life together, that chapter seems to slip further away, and yet it is still as present as ever. The fears and questions of what’s next, who am I, what do I do now, feelings of isolation, fear, and emotions of dealing with surviving are so overpowering and leaves little room for happiness and moving forward.
It’s funny because during cancer I could almost say I was okay, and now I’m not. How do I get back to the real world and leave this rabbit hole I’ve fallen into? I’m trying really hard to figure out what my new “normal” is, but I feel guilty taking time to do that. I’m turning 25 next week and I still live at home and I don’t have a job. I don’t have to explain myself to any judgemental people, but I am putting this pressure on myself to pick up exactly where I left off and go on without acknowledging that I went through hell.
At the young age of 21, I was removed from the blissful world of young adulthood and shoved face first into the darkest depths of disease and depression. Like I said before, the fears and emotions of survivorship are overwhelming. I’m still trying to find that balance and I feel really alone as I am doing it.
Taking a key-point from Adrian Lombardo, “My goal is not to have it all figured out, but to accept what it is that I’m feeling and feel it. No one will ever have it figured out, so why should I? I don’t owe anyone but myself the reasons behind why I’m feeling the way that I’m feeling, but I do owe myself ways of figuring out how to deal with it. It’s going to be challenging but I’m going to learn to love myself all over again for the sake of my mental health and wellbeing.”
All I can say is that I am trying, and I will keep trying to understand, accept and work through my survivor emotions. As cliche as it sounds, the road ahead is rocky AF but I’ve got my hiking boots on and am ready to conquer.