When Your Cancer Comes Back
In November 2015, I lost my aunt, who was like a mother to me, from T cell lymphoma. In September 2015, after being 11 months in remission, my follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma relapsed extensively. Cancer has been a life altering event that has affected every aspect of my life. I experienced many of the feelings that I had when I was initially diagnosed in May of 2012. Feelings of shock, disbelief, anxiety, fear, anger, grief and a sense of loss of control. Getting a cancer diagnosis for the first time is bad enough. But hearing that it’s back can take an even bigger toll.
I restarted chemo-immunotherapy on Dec 3, 2015 for a total of 6 cycles until April 2015. I have faith and hope of accomplishing a long remission. I am aware that it’s going to be a long and difficult journey. I trust God, my family, my friends and my wonderful oncology team at UF Health Cancer Center in Orlando, Florida to help me get through this ordeal a second time.
As a retired Registered Nurse, I remember caring for patients with cancer pain, the terminally ill, and also helped them through the side effects and adverse reactions of treatment. I didn’t fully understand the courage it took to battle cancer every day until I became a cancer patient myself. I can relate to and feel what they went through together with their families.
Working in oncology, I remember having a young patient with lung cancer. At one point, as I sat next to his bed with his wife and young children around him, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I felt embarrassed about crying and thought, “I should be strong and supportive for the patient and his family.” I apologized to his wife, and she told me, “You wouldn’t be a good nurse if you didn’t care enough to cry with us.” Now I see in my doctors, nurses, clerical staff and volunteers the same commitment towards my family and me.
A serious illness certainly will change the way you think about your time, but why must it take something like this to happen? Sometimes you think it’s a blessing to be given this experience in order to value both time and life in a way not previously experienced. As a patient, I will focus on what is meaningful in my life. I value the relationships I have with my family and friends and don’t let things go by without fully experiencing them. I am grateful to God for every day I have with my family and friends. So valuing each person in my life and each experience is extremely important to me.
As a cancer warrior and survivor, I appreciate the small things in life and value myself more than ever. I will not let cancer become the main dish in my life. This time, I’m in charge and confident with my new treatment regimen. There will be side effects, symptoms, good and bad days. The other side effects, while not visible, can be just as challenging–fatigue, nausea, and chemo brain (the mental and cognitive difficulties associated with treatment, which is one of the most frustrating side effects of chemotherapy).
I will focus on one day at a time and one treatment at a time. I will maintain my faith and a positive attitude and recognize that each treatment is a closer step to remission.
The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.