When I started this blog back on June 17, 2019, it was my intention to describe my experiences currently living with the side effects of cancer treatment.
My blog submissions have ranged from advice to warnings along with compassion. I am learning with you as we go along in this journey together, so I hope that as this blog reaches more of you that you feel free to share some of your perspectives with us.
Back in May of 2016, Rachael Yahne, wrote her experiences living after treatment in an article/blog entry titled “5 Things They Never Tell You About Life After Cancer”.
Rachael and I share many similarities in our stories. She was diagnosed at age 17 (I was 3 months shy of my 17th birthday). She was treated for an advanced form of cancer at world renowned hospital (I was treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in Manhattan, NY). We both were offered the best in terms of support, educational resources and mentors.
The next five blog entries will deal with my view on Rachael’s points.
It Will Be Hard To Go Back To Normal
Both Rachael and I agree wholeheartedly on this. I can’t stress enough that whatever you viewed as “normal” before, will change. For some the change is dramatic, while others might not be as severe, but nothing in your life will be like it was before. I choose to separate the changes you experience into two areas, emotional and physical.
You relationships with everyone will permanently change. Some will look up to you and think you can now offer advice on life, others will feel uncomfortable and even guilty and avoid you.
The following excerpt is from Chapter 11 of “My Scars Tell A Story” titled “A Harsh Reality”.
“People now looked at me as different, which also means they expect different things out of me. It’s almost like I was not allowed to be a seventeen-year-old. Because of what I went through, I could not live the normal life of a seventeen-year old. People now expected more out of me. As soon as I came back, teachers and parents wanted me to share what I went through with the other kids as a lesson on how short life can be and to appreciate it. Parents would ask me to talk to their kid who was in trouble and advise him to straighten up because life is short. I wasn’t ready to do this. I just wanted to be Mark again. I wasn’t ready to be a role model nor did I want to be. When I started to get back into classes, it was so hard for me to concentrate on school. Thankfully, my teachers were very understanding, but sometimes too understanding. When I would not hand in an assignment or would hand in unsatisfactory work, they would let it slide. I’m not sure this was good for me. At times when I needed to be pushed, I wasn’t. Whether I liked it or not, I was receiving special treatment.”
Another part of the emotional changes you feel can surround feeling guilty about surviving. When experiencing treatment, almost everyone will encounter and even befriend other patients and family members of patients. Watching your child, spouse, sibling or friend die is one of the hardest experiences of this life. By no fault of their own, others might look at you with an attitude of “Why are they so special”, and even think that you have an attitude of superiority, especially if you talk about your relationship with Jesus .
These changes can be the most damaging. For me, I could no longer function sexually as I did prior. While that is very VERY difficult and humiliating to share, I can’t expect others to open up about their struggles when I’m not being honest.
I could no longer have children. Sex (at the time I was a virgin) was also now much more challenging because of the damage that radiation did. These are issues that make me feel like less than a man. I see myself as damaged and that no female should have to deal with my inconvenient body functions.
Another issue was that I could no longer hold in my bowel movements. This started about 6 months post treatment and have never gone away. After gallbladder surgery in 2003, I had to wear a diaper, which I still do.
The emotional and mental humiliation of living with those two issues post treatment is severely humiliating for me. I will discuss the mental and physical issues and how they affect my life again in a later blog.
As always my heart and prayers are with you.
NEXT BLOG DATE: August 15, 2019 - Another Perspective Part 2