A Cancer Diagnosis Never Leaves You
I have come to realize that for me, and I am sure many others, a cancer diagnosis never leaves you. That is not to say that I, currently cancer-free, still feel I have cancer, nor am I labeled with the "C" word, but it is not something that has ever left me.
A family friend told me that 12 years after a breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, and treatment and after many healthy years since - the day that she was diagnosed and the weeks and months to follow, had never left her.
My ostomies saved my life
Four years later, I realize this is undoubtedly to-date, true for me too. In 2017 I went through my surgery and the physical and emotional recovery that followed.
I continued year by year to get stronger. I accept the "new me" and the "new norm" with two ostomies. Two ostomies saved my life and allowed me still to be here.
In many ways, as so much had happened, it seems a lifetime ago, I was diagnosed with late-stage invasive bladder cancer. In other ways, as I still feel it touches my life daily, I think it wasn't that long ago at all.
Treatment leaves its mark
It also depends on how things are going. If I am having a hard day or a heavy week at work, I often get emotional and everything I have been through comes flooding back.
It was obviously a very traumatic time in my life and it's not something I can completely forget; however hard I try. For many, treatments last for months or even years, that too makes it hard for that initial diagnosis to be buried away at the back of your mind.
Our ostomies are a constant reminder
I think that it is extra hard to forget for myself and some bladder cancer patients when the treatment involves bladder removal.
Each time you go to the bathroom to empty or change your ostomy bag, right there is the reminder of why and where your journey began. When you get dressed or undressed or take a shower, again, right there, the ostomy/ostomies remind you of what you have been through.
Cancer grounded me
It is not all negative though. My diagnosis for sure grounded me. It made me look at life very differently. I appreciate the simple things in my life like having a meal with friends or family, a movie night with my husband, or playing with my nieces.
I am grateful for the medical advances which made my complex surgery possible.
I have always considered myself a thoughtful person, and I have always tried to look out for others.
Now, however, I have developed a new empathy for what others are going through. Whether that is medically, emotionally, personally, or work challenge. I try to both think about how they may be feeling but equally acknowledge I will never know exactly what someone is going through.
You can't walk it for them
You may have had a similar journey, but you haven't walked in their shoes. You can help support and guide them in the path they need to follow but you can't walk it for them.
It has also made me passionate about raising awareness about bladder cancer and advocating for others. Working with BladderCancer.net and writing these articles along with being a Moderator, has really helped me feel that I am giving back to the broader world of bladder cancer and all it has given me. I also find it rewarding assistance others going through a similar journey.
It happened, but I still stand
I think it is only really in the last year, that I have accepted that I don't need to try and forget it completely. It was something that happened to me. It's very much a part of who I am today.
So now instead of looking back with anger or upset at what happened to me and giving myself a hard time for now forgetting it, I embrace the reminders. I use these reminders to help me work through my feelings.
The cancer diagnosis will never leave me, but equally, I didn't leave myself and who I am in the surgeons' office at the time of diagnosis.
I am still here. I am me.