Last week, I was reading a series of featured blogs written by women who have survived cancer. Their stories touched my heart, as I read about the courage and determination these women showed after hearing the words “you have cancer” and their fight to get to where they are today.
I have never been told those three dreaded words: “you have cancer.” I couldn’t imagine what these women were thinking or feeling. After hearing the words “Mom has pancreatic cancer,” I slipped into a state of shocked silence. There were no words or even thoughts. Honestly, I was numb. The next day, some of the shock wore off and was replaced by the deepest of fears. My only thought was “what are we going to do to help Mom beat this cancer.” For the next 347 days, I stood by my mom as she underwent testing, surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy, and was hospitalized. I tried to help her in whatever way I could. In a way, our entire family and some very close friends fought with my mom against pancreatic cancer. We be came her “army.” Sadly, my mom lost her battle against cancer. But her army survived, and we had to learn how to live life without her. This brings me to the title of this blog: Survivorship of a Different Kind.
In the blogs of the women who have survived cancer, they spoke of triggers, scars, moving on with life, post-traumatic stress disorder, how so much has changed, healing, and letting time pass. I could relate to so much of what they wrote, but I felt like I didn’t have the right to comment on their blogs because I’m not a true cancer survivor. I lived through my mom’s battle with cancer and her death, and there were times when I didn’t think I’d survive the pain and grief. I was traumatized by what pancreatic cancer did to my mom and by her death, and I am emotionally scarred. I didn’t quite know how to go on with life after my mom died. I had been focused on helping my mom, and suddenly she was gone, leaving a huge hole in my world. I went back to “everyday living,” but my life wasn’t the same. I wasn’t the same. I felt sad and lost, struggled with anger and guilt, and some days I had no idea how to get through the day. My mom wasn’t here anymore, so nothing was the same.
It’s been over 2 years since my mom died. Time has passed and I have started to heal. The pain I felt 2+ years ago has lessened, but I still deal with triggers. There are times when the littlest thing can take me back into the past or even reopen old wounds, and I feel traumatized once again. I worry that I too will develop and die from pancreatic cancer, or even worse, that pancreatic cancer will strike one of my kids. Sometimes I’m just plain sad because of how deeply my mom’s illness and death affected me and how much I miss her.
Surviving cancer is an incredible thing, a miracle in some cases. I truly hope that the survivors I read about continue to lead cancer-free lives. In no way do I mean to take anything away from people who undergo cancer treatment and survive or to diminish their fight. But reading these stories and being able to relate to them made me realize that there is another type of cancer survivor. Cancer affects more than just the patients – it affects the people who care for them, those who fight with them against this dreaded disease, the ones who love them dearly, and those who hold onto hope and pray for a miracle.