A hand peeling back a gray storm cloud to reveal light shining behind it.

Life After Bladder Cancer?

Are you surviving? Thriving? Or a bit of a 'hot mess' (like me)? I am not transitioning peacefully and calmly into living with cancer, and the after-effects thereof. I am kicking and screaming all the way. I want my old life back. Or at least that's what I thought until I started to write about how I feel.

Grief

I am grieving for my old ways of doing things. I am grieving for my health and mobility. But I am not grieving for the old Anita. I like this new, wise, compassionate, and understanding me. I am proud of her. She is flipping amazing. I have lost count of the number of times she has been 'broken.' Especially in life with bladder cancer.

What am I? Who am I?

I am very lucky or fortunate or whatever you want to call it. I have outlived my prognosis and beyond. Where does that leave me? It leaves me with a broken body, chronic pain, and an active mind. But do I have bladder cancer or am I now classed as a survivor?

I only ask because we have always been told that this small cell bladder cancer will return and that once cancer goes into your bones, that's it - game over. My oncologist tells me to say "I'm cancer-free, for now" or that I am "no evidence of disease" but doesn't this mean that I don't have cancer right now? And yet my doctor told me I was in remission, even though it hasn't been 5 clear years of being 'cancer-free.' Can you see why I am confused?

Living with bladder cancer

It has taken a few years but now listen to my body. When she says, "Nope, this isn't the day to do a full house clean." I listen. I have learned that I will expend far more energy trying to complete a task, be it writing, cleaning, etc, when I feel unwell. If I just wait until my body is well-rested and feels stronger, those seemingly massive tasks don't seem so big anymore.

Another trick is to break everything down and spread it out during the day. You know when you are at your best. For me, it's the first thing in the morning when I can achieve the most. If I have a rest during the afternoon I may or may not get a splurge of energy when the Hubby comes home.

Be extra kind

To yourself!

Life after bladder cancer is seldom smooth sailing. We go from being closely monitored to 3 monthly, 6 monthly, and yearly checks. We try not to convince ourselves that every little pain is the cancer returning but it isn't just the physical side of cancer, it is the deeper lasting effects on the body and mind that we must learn to live with.

Making the most of THIS life

My world has shrunk considerably, even before COVID struck. My life revolves and evolves around my home, family, and close friends. I am no longer worried about everyone else's life. I don't watch the news anymore or read newspapers.

I chose to keep my life simple and my food healthy. I have read studies that show our gut health is connected and has a huge effect on our immune system, so it makes sense that you are what you eat. Food = fuel. By putting in healthy, nutritious foods you are really giving your body a fighting chance. Put rubbish in and you will feel rubbish.

I am choosing to push myself a little daily and have given myself a walking challenge. It's day 2 and I am walking up the stairs 20 times each day. I break this task into smaller, manageable, groups of five. I promise it gets easier.

Accepting life

I think you have to accept everything in your life with grace and dignity, even when your bag bursts and soaks the bed. This is my life now and I truly love it. I accept everything that has happened to me, it is in the past. I am now focusing on my daily life. Some days I'm stuck on the sofa and other days I potter about and that suits me fine.

Everyone is different!

We are all different and all respond differently to medications and treatments. Try and keep that in mind. None of our journeys are the same. Do whatever you have to do to hang on in there. There is life after bladder cancer.

Love and hugs always, Anita

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