I’ve been mentoring a newly diagnosed lymphoma patient and my biggest advice to her is to find a professional to talk to after treatment finishes.
The biggest misconception that “healthy” people have is that after treatment is over and the doctor declares you to be in remission, it’s back to business as usual. Well meaning family and friends would ask me if I felt excited to “get back to normal”.
I learned quickly that there is no “back to normal” after something as life changing as cancer. It really rocked the foundation of who I perceived myself to be. While I still feel like I’m scrambling to make up for the year I lost to cancer, I’ve taken this time to rewrite my story.
And I can’t do that alone. Which means YOU probably can’t either. And that’s more than OK.
In an unscientific study I conducted via Facebook, after chemo mental health care is ignored or plain not brought up by patients and oncologists around the world. I’m not sure why that is.
My hypothesis is that our eagerness to “get back to normal” makes us reluctant to talk about anything that’s not “fine.” I’ve done this myself. The SGT told my oncologist, Dr Morgan at Vanderbilt University (he’s awesome!), that I was catching every cold and flu that came my way. I insisted that I was fine. Sure I was always sick but what difference does it make?
Well, a big one. He ordered six rounds of immunoglobulin therapy to help boost my immune system. It’s been about a year since I did IVIG and it’s helped tremendously. In my rush to put cancer and chemo behind me, I tend to overlook when I’m not okay.
What do you do when you’re not okay?
To borrow a page out of Brene Brown‘s book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, I get deliberate, I get inspired and I get going. For me that looks like this:
- I recognize that I’m not feeling okay. And I give my self permission to just sit with that feeling, as uncomfortable as it is.
- I break out either the knitting, my sewing machine or my paints and I keep my hands busy.
- I start talking about it either in person, via email or on this blog. While being so public isn’t for everyone (and that’s fine!), talking to someone, like other survivors or a professional therapist, is an important aspect of feeling better.
Do some deep thinking and come up with some ways to feel a bit better. And if that means reaching out for professional help, remember there’s no shame in doing so.