There is a cruel myth about surviving cancer. In this myth, when the medical treatment is successful, the story ends.
Having survived cancer, we pick up our lives where they were interrupted and carry-on, with increased gratitude for the simple acts of daily life and the clarity of purpose that only a brush with death affords.
The real story does not end in this way.
Instead we live in limbo. After cancer, we know that we are on uncertain ground.
We have to adjust to the trauma on our bodies from the effects of intense treatments and surgeries. Some symptoms (and treatments) may last for months, years or even the rest of our lives.
In addition to the physical trauma, there is:
The emotional trauma,
The loss of our bodies as we knew them,
The loss of the trust in our world and in some of our loved ones who disappeared or didn’t show up when we needed them.
We have unsure footing and anxiety of what’s next. There is no longer order in our universe.
When we resume daily life, we are disoriented, confused, fragmented, worried, jumpy and we no longer “fit in”. The people in our lives think we are getting back to normal but nobody realizes that normal is actually gone.
The trivia of life drops away and there is no question about what’s important, but those around us have trouble relating to us, and us to them. This is a lonely place to be.
All of these things are omitted from the survival myth.