Understanding Life Before and After Cancer

05/10/2021 By Lori

Where to begin! You see this is not easy for me to tell my story. Plus there is so much to tell. But here it goes.

I would love to say my life was perfect before my first diagnosis, but I would be lying. I had trauma and issues even before Cancer Diagnosis #1. But I will say that even with that, I built a life I was proud of. Two kids, husband, house, career: now all with challenges, but nonetheless, proud of what I had built. Two boys that were always busy and I was always working to keep up with them. My husband and I worked opposite schedules so there was always one of us available for them. Which, as you can imagine, has its own challenges.

Then in 2017, I had just recently got laid off from my job and ready to start a new job. A week before that, I discovered a mass on my chest. I avoided it for a few days but because I was starting a new job the following week, I thought I would go to the emergency room to get it checked out. Unfortunately that is when it all began. Started a series of tests while starting a new job.

Two long, terrible weeks later, it was confirmed. I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It was all so surreal and emotional, and I was scared but I had so many people to support me.

I remember going to the cancer center and seeing all the sick people and thinking, am I going to be that sick? How is this possible when I feel fine?

I started chemo within 3 weeks and it was unspeakably horrific with complication and time away from my boys and yes, I was very sick. I had three doses of chemo and a month of radiation. Now, still not understanding everything that was happening, I just went into survival mode. I made it through, and tried to resume my life. The first time, I wanted to just move on and forward. I remember a wonderful friend of mine, Andy, who worked and the cancer center, after treatment, people either run away and never look back or engulf themselves in the Cancer world. I wanted to run far, far away. And I sure did try, and it worked for a little while.

Fast forward, to 2020. In January, I had again noticed a mass but thought it could not be possible. A couple weeks passed, and another mass appeared. Yep, that is when I had to admit the possibility of relapse. A couple weeks later and the day before the Global Pandemic started, I found out I also had relapsed. Well, not only did I need to fight cancer, but I needed to fight during a global pandemic. And, not only those two things, but then found out my treatment would be chemo and a transplant. Yep, a transplant during a Global Pandemic. So, survival mode again. Having to leaving my job, and figure out how to stay safe during a global pandemic after transplant. I was terrified and isolated beyond belief. My kids had to go live with family and friends as my husband took care of me. However, he had to return to work, and that meant he also needed to move out.

Post cancer and post cancer twice. The first time, all I wanted to do is move on and forward. This time is a little harder, I am still recovering and my family is still separated because of COVID. And so, I have been faced with such a longer recovery and a new way of learning how to handle my post cancer life. Yes, I am grateful that I am now in remission, but I cannot say that I am 100% both mentally and physically. Could this be because of the second diagnosis, the pandemic, isolation, or all of the above. It is definitely all of the above.

So, you are probably asking why am I telling my story? Part of my motivation is my own healing and the larger part is to let others know that no matter where you are in your journey, it is OK to be confused, scared and true to your feelings. I know we are strong and we as survivors are so grateful. But it is ok to admit confusion and not understanding what just happened. I will say this, my husband and my kids are far stronger than me, and we have gone through so much together. I owe to them to try and figure out my life after cancer!

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