At the Cross Roads of Life: What does one do after the Chemo Treatments are Done?

The fourth of July is huge. It commemorates our Independence from tyranny and today as I stand at the brink of reclaiming my Independence, I can’t help but take a minute to pause and reflect on all the parties and celebrations we’ve thrown on the fourth. Most fourths we’ve gathered my husband’s family together to break bread, and celebrate the day. We’ve filled the day with laughter, music, food and fireworks.

This fourth is a little different though. It will be my first in a line of many new memories to shape. It comes at a time where I stand before my future path, the past wavering behind, and huge hopes looming ahead. I can’t help but connect to those men and women during the reshaping of Colonial America. They too stood at their crossroads, wondering which way to turn to live and be successful, to breathe freely and strive for survival.

In a way, the fourth has taken on new meaning this year…

A few days before my last cancer treatment I found myself at these crossroads again. The finish line was in site, but the emotional baggage of what would come next, the new norm, that was overwhelming.

My hubby and friends were understanding, as always, but I couldn’t come to terms with why I was experiencing all this trepidation.

I posted in the Colon Cancer Support Group on Facebook the following query:

Marine Yanikian Sutton: Can’t shake these questions- help. When all the treatments are over, how does one just move on? My last treatment is on Monday (June 26th) and I feel frightened, not of the treatment but of the fact that what I breathe, eat, think, and feel may allow it to come back.

Am I just overthinking this? And if so, how do I stop?

The responses/outpouring was tremendous. To protect the people that reached out, I’ve assigned them acronyms and removed their names from this blog.

‪U‪SP: Seek guidance from a holistic practisioner or a functional medicine MD. I started that route after I was diagnosed end of April. Mind you I was eating healthy before. And excerscise, very important!!

BM: You have no control of it. None of us do, even tho we think we do, we don’t. Enjoy your new outlook on life and live it to the fullest! Don’t look back look forward. You can’t have a bright future if your worrying about the dark past.. best of luck god bless you and keep you healthy.

DD: I finished on June 1st and it was an overwhelming day because I was going to miss chemo lol, but because once again my life was changing for the umpteenth time in less than 10 months. But I can tell you, just go day by day. I’m still trying to get my strength up. I’m still struggling with insomnia. But day by day I’m feeling better. In Aug I go for blood work and scans and then find out if they can see anything. Right now I barely think about it but I’m sure once I get closer to the date anxiety will be a little higher.

As for what I do, I enjoy my free time (not back to work yet. I’m really not excited to go back haha) I’m doing all the things I couldn’t do last summer because of all the pain I was in and couldn’t be far away from a bathroom. Just need the weather to smarten up!! So that’s my advice. Just take it day by day and enjoy some of the things you may have missed out on.

KP: I am all for being positive and looking forward,, however there is no forgetting what has happened to us after such traumatic treatments! That said, I believe doing everything possible to keep anything from recurring, within reason or personal comfort zone. I guess we all have to decide for ourselves what we can or can not go along with and make our own decisions. But I do think this will be something that is in the back of our minds forever, and that might be good as long as we don’t become preoccupied with it to the point of becoming negative. Stay positive, be smart keep fighting for good health!

‪L‪K: I’m not at the point that you’re at, but One day at a time is the only way we can move forward. My husband tells me daily , “You can do this, you’re not going anywhere, I need you and your children and grandchildren need you.” That helps me keep focused on my future. We’ve started planning a trip for after my chemo is finished and after husband’s open heart surgery, which he has postponed until I’m all done. I’m finding that looking forward to small things is really helping me. Prayer for you, Dear Marine. You’re an inspiration to many. Know that!

TS: My last infusion was on January 25, 2017. I think the emotional toll is worse after chemo. You are no longer on the chemo schedule, there’s survivors’ remorse, scan/ test anxiety, and people think that chemo is over so you are fine. Let me tell you, 6 months since my last infusion and I’m still healing even though I made it through chemo relatively easy.

Take one day at a time. Do what you can to help your body heal. And take time for yourself. You need to heal mentally and physically. Nothing but positive thoughts!!

PEM: I went in to a bit of depression and No one could understand why I felt that way. It went away after a while. I understand exactly how you feel.

MC: TS said it perfectly! It’s like walking out of a battle field , great news, but the collateral damage is behind you, the unknown ahead of you, the battle scars(for me Neuropathy and a pacemaker ) changing your life forever and NO ONE that hasn’t been here understands. I understand

❤️we’ll get through this part too

‪J‪K: I actually feel more depressed now that I’m in remission then I did during treatments and also a bit of survivors remorse. ( A good friend from my church lost her battle just as I was starting mine) I still have issues with my stamina… there’s so much I want to do but just get wiped out quickly.

‪J‪C: How can you prevent a reoccurance if you dont know what caused it? I think cancer just changes your mind set forever.

AC: Make some goals you can start working on.. And Plan a trip or some kind of celebration for when you’re done treatment.

JM: I could not leave the house for a while. I tried to get back to normal things I loved but would like freak out and needed to be home. I’ve calmed a great deal now that it’s been almost two years. But the scans and office visits are bad for me. It is true ly like PTSD.

On the positive funny side I will make some extravagant purchases, not a lot but I say I may not be here tomorrow I should have that. That is something I never did before.

I realized after reading and rereading these supportive posts that I was not alone at the crossroads. Fear and doubt riddle us all. We all walk at our different paces and we are all thrown challenges along the way. It’s how we deal with he challenges that strengthen or weaken us. I was blessed in December. None of this could have happened, I could have gone on living until it was too late. But I’ve bene given a second chance.

And based on the responses of the brethren that are also walking this path with me, I know for certain a few facts:

1) we can only walk it a step at a time/a day at a time,

2) we must enjoy today and appreciate every second,

3) we must set small attainable goals.

The fact hat the future is unknown for all of us is the key here. Nobody knows when they will enter this world or leave it. So instead of worrying about what’s lurking around the next corner, maybe all we can do is live in the today- claim our independence and stand strong to the current moment.

Hope you all had a blessed fourth! Thanks for walking this emotional journey with me, for reaching out, and helping me thrive!

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Till next week, go live, thrive, have fun and do great things!

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