Returning to Life: Reflecting on My Bladder Cancer Recovery

Last updated: September 2022

Four and a half years after my bladder cancer surgery, I have started to reflect a lot on all I have gone through in the last few years. I feel I can now fully digest all that I went through. It feels like a natural and therapeutic thing to do.

Physically and mentally, I have recovered well. I live a good life with 2 ostomy bags. I use my experiences from diagnosis, surgery, and living as an ostomate to support and empower others in their bladder cancer journey.

Reflecting on my bladder cancer recovery

Each year on the anniversary of my diagnosis in August, I look back and see progress. In the first year, it was an emotional reflection. I was still very much recovering physically and emotionally and getting used to my "new norm" living with a colostomy and a urostomy.

The second anniversary saw me reflect on how far I had come, having managed to return to long-haul and foreign travel for work and starting to share my story to raise awareness of bladder cancer.

My third anniversary passed unremarkably. I had a busy day at work. I realized I hadn't overthought my journey, and even better, I was starting to have periods where I wasn't thinking all the time about anything I needed to do next to manage my stomas.

The fourth and last anniversary was slightly strange. I struggled with my emotions on this day. I was angry and upset and felt like I had been emotionally hit by a boulder, almost like the physical feeling of being hit by one bus after another post-surgery. The day passed, and an emotional equilibrium returned. It was like I had recovered enough to realize how much I had been through suddenly.

Emotional transitions

Since that day in August last year, I have started to think a lot about how I have transitioned emotionally over these years.

In the initial years after my life-saving surgery, I awoke grateful to be here still having a good life to live due to my amazingly skilled surgical team, and I wanted to make every day count. Something else has changed, however.

These first years were filled with "firsts." The first trip to our local pub, the first overnight, the first holiday abroad post-surgery, and so on.

Every occasion had so much unconscious pressure put on it in some ways. I wanted it to be perfect. I think sometimes this was because I worried, "What if there wouldn't be a second of these things? What if the cancer came back?"

Returning to life after bladder cancer

As time progressed and more often, I felt I owed it to myself, my family and friends who supported me, my medical team, and everyone to make it unique, as I was so lucky to be still here to do it. Now I feel a balance has returned. I can now plan and enjoy things without the pressure to make them the best event, day, or holiday. I am now back to living my life.

I now can enjoy these things for what they are. I realize no one's tomorrow is promised, so we should all live as complete a life as we can. Carpe diem.

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