Cancer Survivor was not a title I ever thought I’d possess by the age of 41.
I however, approached it head-on, plowing through surgeries, treatments and doctors’ appointments. Cancer was not going to beat me.
And although my cancer journey was a fairly positive one, I found that in a blink of an eye, I started to feel lost and quite honestly, somewhat depressed. It was taking a toll on my day to day life and the interactions that I had with family and friends.
Active treatments are complete, now what?!? No one is checking in on me. What should I be doing? How should I be feeling? What if I don’t want this “new normal”? Although I had a good support system, I somehow felt so alone.
After I finished chemo I found that people would constantly say the phrase, “So you’re done now, right?”. Little did they know I had so many thoughts and feelings running through my head. Stuff that kept me up at night. Medical personnel were no longer monitoring my everyday actions. It really became a struggle to go back to living my old life after this thing called cancer just disrupted everything I’d known and trusted.
And then a friend shared Angel on My Shoulder with me. Little did I know this small action would give me my life back. I was a little skeptical at first, not knowing how a short weekend with a bunch of strangers could possibly be helpful. But after reading up on it a little more, I said, “What have I got to lose?” I can do this… Go, share, listen and most importantly relax. I owed it to myself, to my children and to my husband. I needed to get back on track – and take control of my life again.
Not knowing what to expect, I found myself a little anxious about going. But the anxiety quickly faded, as I was cheerfully greeted by Nancy and her awesome team of angel volunteers. As other attendees started to arrive, it quickly became evident that The-Big-C really knows no boundaries. The room was filled with survivors from all kinds of backgrounds, ages and types and stages of cancer – each of them telling of their own personal journey. We shared meals, stories, resources, laughter and tears. I realized that each of our paths was absolutely unique, but when stepping back, we all really experienced the same thoughts and feelings during treatment and recovery.
I gained so much that weekend. I spent it with a bunch of strangers that I now think of as friends. It gave me confidence. It helped me to know that I’m not going crazy. And that a “new reality” is something that can be embraced and entered into at my own pace. Throw in some laughter, smiles, survivor-focused yoga, pampering, gifts and relaxation – It made an impact on my life that will not be forgotten. Most importantly it helped me to close the door on cancer.
And even though I still have periodic appointments, I’ve given myself permission to move on.
If you or a loved one is hoping to figure out what to do during the next phase of cancer, consider checking out Healing Angels, a program by Angel on My Shoulder.
– Tracy Hengst. Breast Cancer Survivor. Diagnosed Oct 2014.