A senior woman with a large backpack starts on a journey

Navigating Year 2

As we celebrated the start of a new year, I began looking ahead and trying to make a plan for year 2 of active cancer treatment. The routine of immunotherapy every 3 weeks, CT scans every 3 months, and ordering my ostomy supplies monthly is now no longer daunting, but almost comforting in their familiarity. I know the names of all the nurses at my cancer center. I no longer need to check-in at the radiology center as they all greet me by name when I walk in.

I couldn't imagine getting to this point

This time last year, I looked at the expanse of drugs, needle pokes, and life with cancer in fear. I couldn’t imagine ever getting into a “routine” and feeling comfortable treating my diagnosis like a chronic illness as my doctor encouraged. I was sure I would become so tired and frustrated with the process, but now it is just as much part of my daily life as oil changes in my car, or changing the filters in our AC unit. The various appointments are just body maintenance now. But as I’ve settled into this routine, I’ve found myself a little lost with what to do now. Finding a purpose in both my cancer life and normal life.

Getting more involved in cancer and ostomy communities

I’ve felt called to do more advocacy and education regarding bladder cancer. To that effort, I’ve joined a Patient Advisory Panel and joined my local United Ostomy Association group. I’ve given myself goals to achieve regarding my writing and various projects. I told myself this year I would stick to a writing schedule and treat my content creation more like a second job rather than a sporadic hobby. I’m actively pushing myself to be more vocal and supportive in the different online communities I am part of, where I would usually linger in the background. Becoming more active in the cancer and ostomy community has given me a sense of control over my cancer experience instead of just feeling like I’m along for the ride.

What about my "normal" life outside of cancer?

The hardest hurdle to overcome has been allowing myself to make plans and goals for my “normal” life. For a full year, I never really separated Brittney from my No Bladder Don’t Matter life. It has been challenging to find out who I am now. I’ve been allowing myself the freedom to rediscover old hobbies and create new ones. I made a promise to visit a park every single weekend with my dog (for his benefit and mine).

Settling into married life and setting goals

As my cancer diagnosis happened so soon after getting married, I now find myself just now settling into being a “wife” while celebrating my third wedding anniversary. This has truly been a time of turning the page from the terrified 28-year-old who was fighting for her life and jumping ahead to the more mature and confident 30-year-old. In the confines of COVID-19, I’ve written out 6 things I want to accomplish this year and I’m looking forward to seeing how everything pans out.

The next chapter

I think for those of us who are "chronic", where there is not necessarily a light at the end of the tunnel, but a long-term maintenance package for their cancer, it can be so frustrating trying to mesh cancer and noncancer life together. I encourage my fellow long-haul cancer fighters to allow themselves a time of healing and grieving, but when the time is right, push yourself towards defining the next chapter of your journey. You are so much more than your cancer routine.

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