Cancer Isn’t Just Cancer

03/28/2019 By Rachel Mihalko

I’ve had a rough go of it lately.

At least that’s what I’ve been telling the people I can confide in. The truth is, I’m really struggling. Struggling with school, struggling with my mental health, struggling with making sense of everything I’ve gone through. Because it isn’t fair. It will never be fair that I got cancer, and it will never be fair that anyone gets cancer. There is not a single person who deserves such a terrible fate. I don’t deserve to struggle with PTSD after treatment. And I don’t deserve to struggle with depression and have trouble even getting up in the morning to go to class.

Life has been rough ever since I was first diagnosed almost ten months ago. People assume things get better once the cancer is gone. And while I might have clear scans and not be totally wiped out from chemo every day, I still get tired walking to class, have trouble overdoing it, and get tired out fast at theatre rehearsals. Cancer isn’t just cancer. It affects a person so much more than you would think.

I’m ready for things to go back to how they were. I’m ready to be pre-cancer Rachel, happier, and oblivious to the pain post-cancer Rachel has experienced. Is still experiencing. But I’m growing through all of this. As much as I hate it, as much as I just want to be normal and be able to go for a run or have energy all day long, there’s something to be said for going through hard things. These things are what shape you into a stronger, more mature, more free person. Cancer has challenged my perfectionism and my inner critic. It is challenging me to show myself more grace and be okay with getting a B+ on a paper or a test. Because that’s okay. What does one test matter in the grand scheme of things? I’m learning what I need to and applying it as best I can. And my body is still recovering, so how can I expect perfection from myself, especially now?

This doesn’t mean I’m okay with my cancer yet. I’m still angry and upset and learning to accept what I’ve been through. And I may be far from it, and that’s okay. Because I’m learning to give myself grace.

Rachel Mihalko is the Director of Content at Elephants & Tea magazine and is a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. She loves theatre, writing poetry, and crafting of all sorts. Reading has fueled her passion for writing, and you will rarely find her without a book on hand. You can connect with her on Instagram.

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