Cancer Changes Everything
Cancer changes everything. At the moment of cancer diagnosis, there is a marker in life, which bookmarks personal time as either Before Cancer or After Cancer.
But before that, there is the in-between time, when you don’t quite know what is happening. You may have experienced troubling symptoms for some time, followed by lab work or medical exams. Or, it may have all started with a routine trip to the doctor – you were told that something seems suspicious or wrong. “How long has this lump been there?” After that, you may have gone through more visits and more tests, several weeks apart.
So at the time of receiving the definitive news of cancer, you have already been feeling fear, dread, confusion – many unpleasant feelings. While waiting for test results, you might have been counting on relief or expecting the worst. While waiting, we usually cope in the way that is most familiar, using our habits and patterns of thinking and feeling. If you are upbeat, you probably stayed that way. If you are more like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh, you probably have been feeling dark and dismal.
If you went through all of the tests, and the “all clear” was sounded, then the emotion of this experience will recede and ongoing life is not interrupted too much. However, even this near-diagnosis experience frequently has a powerful emotional result – “The time I almost had cancer, I really imagined what that was like.” And life changes a little, sometimes actually for the better. Life seems more precious, with a hopeful and fresh future.
But if you received bad news, you will be experiencing shock, trauma, loss, grief, fear or confusion. Although there’s a lot to do down the line to feel better, to be hopeful, optimistic, informed … at the beginning, it’s just a nightmare. You are most likely numb, confused, worried or hyper-focused on only one aspect of the information. You could even be wondering what all the uproar is about, and sure that everything will be fine.
Some people experience the sense of the wind knocked out of them, dizziness or enormous sadness. There’s a loss that life will never be the same again. Life After Cancer. No planning for life lasting forever, which it doesn’t anyway, but we pretend. At the beginning of this journey, no one has any accurate idea if life will be shortened from cancer, but it is almost always a first fear. Cancer changes everything.
There are so many unknowns. At a time when you desperately want information about illness and treatment, and outcomes, there are frequently delays in getting that useful information. It takes time to get in to the doctor for medical appointments and time to get in for specialized tests. Waiting for more results is very challenging. You will be waiting with very little information for days or weeks at a time when you need some concrete information and direction. Even if you are very skilled at getting appointments, even if you have a friend who can help, it’s hard to navigate the system and wait it out.