Today marks my last two days of chemotherapy for testicular cancer, six years ago. Why do I mark the last two days, and not the last day? Because I distinctly remember just how scared out of my mind I was, worrying that the chemotherapy hadn't done its job, and that I'd have to go through these months of misery all over again, possibly without a healthy exit. My cancer was negative for blood tumor markers, so there was no way to get interim updates via simple blood checks. Scans are the only thing that would tell us, and I remember being so afraid that I just wanted to rip out all of my lines and run away. I knew that I couldn't, and had to take some extra Ativan with my chemotherapy just to calm myself down enough to make it through.
Six years ago seems like an eternity to most, but it's not that simple when it's cancer. It sticks with you and can find ways to haunt you even many years after that. As recently as just two years ago, I was minding my own business at work and hadn't given this milestone even a single conscious thought, when I was just overrun with anxiety and found myself in an unexplained state of panic. I was confused and didn't know what the hell I was afraid of, but then it dawned on me, that these were those last days of chemotherapy four years ago at that point. Consciously, I hadn't given it even a single thought, but subconsciously, my mind still remembered, was still thinking of this, and it was still afraid.
I wrote this blog about that day: A Snapshot of Posttraumatic Stress
I left work and went home for an emergency 5K run, as though I really were running away from this, as if to satisfy what this part of my mind wanted to do all along. It was even raining out, but I didn't care, and so there I was running through the rain with tears streaming down my face, because deep inside I was still so afraid of this. I felt so defeated. I thought I had made it past all of this, only for another layer of pain to reveal itself. There was no way in hell I was going to live my life in fear like this even so many years out, and vowed to do whatever it took to root this pain out of me. I couldn't live like this, and so just two years ago I started fighting again, not against cancer, but for peace of mind after cancer.
I didn't care what I had to do, what beliefs I had to overturn, or what parts of myself I had to tear down or burn to the ground. I wanted these demons gone, because there's nothing I wanted more than to feel at peace inside. Cancer wasn't the issue - I was the issue, and my own worst enemy was me.
Later that year, I wrote this: 10 Important Lessons on Life, Love, and Forgiveness After Cancer
My body had healed itself after cancer, and there were no cancer cells to be found, but I had never truly healed my soul from cancer. I really found myself in the story of cancer survivor and author, Anita Moorjani. I needed to learn forgiveness, and to allow myself to be exactly as I am as if I were fulfilling a purpose. Forgiveness and self-love were both foreign concepts to me, but deep inside, I still had never forgiven my body for developing cancer and was terrified of it coming back, I had never forgiven myself for the times that I had been less than "perfect" in the midst of such a crisis, and had never forgiven others who had really failed me or let me down. I forgave my body, forgave myself, and forgave others, and allowed myself (and others) to be exactly as they were for the first time, without judging or criticizing every thing I had ever done. We all have a purpose, and we're all exactly as we were meant to be, if only we allow it, and stop getting in the way of ourselves.
I burned myself to the ground again, so that I could evolve once more, and it was after this year of struggle that I finally felt what I had longed to feel for so long - a true inner peace for the first time after cancer. I'll never forget that moment, standing out on the beach taking in the sunrise when it just came to me, with tears streaming from my eyes.
I captured that moment here: That Moment When You Realize, Life Really Has Moved On After Cancer
That was only two years ago.
The point of this trip down memory lane is that true healing after cancer is achievable, but it can take a long time. This is not a race, and it could take you many years to get there, but you can get there. Never stop trying, and never stop believing in yourself, but you might have to tear down some of the things you believe in. I've never had to work harder at anything in my life than finding peace again after cancer, but there's been no more worthy endeavor. What kind of price can you put on achieving a true inner peace after cancer? It's truly priceless.