For those Desperate Housewives fans, a storyline a few years ago featured one of the main characters, Lynette, having cancer. I cried watching her deal with diagnosis and go through chemotherapy.
However, when her treatment ended, so did the cancer storyline.
She was not only “cured,” but she had no physical and psychological effects from the devastating disease and treatments. And guess what? Her husband and children put the cancer behind them, too. Cancer was so over, that it was time to move on to other plot lines of dysfunctional proportions.
We in the cancer world know better. We know that cancer — whatever the outcome — affects us for the rest of our lives. Like a nuclear fallout, the fallout from having cancer is huge. Storylines like that of the Desperate Housewives post-cancer episodes do the public a disservice: they teach us that if we are lucky enough to have the status of “cancer survivor,” then cancer should be eradicated from our history.
Someone once told me that I had to “get over” this thing (meaning the cancer), as it was in the past. Other people told me how lucky I was to have breast cancer, the “good cancer.”
What loads of sh*t.
To this day, people admire me for “beating” cancer.
Truth is, breast cancer has beaten me up pretty badly.
OK, it’s a given that diagnosis and treatment were hell, so I’m fast-forwarding to what my “post-cancer” life is like. Overall, I am grateful to have survived thus far, and I enjoy each day, or try to, because I know how fragile life can be — and I know how close I was to losing my life.
However — not to sound ungrateful here — my cancer treatments set off a chain of events: side effects such as significant bone loss, terrible abdominal and back pain from DIEP flap surgery, chemobrain, fears of recurrence — especially when I have aches and pains, as well as psychological lows and flashbacks. And then there’s that pang of fear that strikes me each time I have a follow-up with a doctor.
But I’m just expected to “get over cancer” because it’s in the past.
Why do people feel the need to sweep these experiences under the ever-so-tidy carpet of denial? Maybe it’s because they want to live in a land where we all live in gingerbread houses.
Well even gingerbread houses rot.
Having cancer is like being on a doomed train. If the first car derails, there are repercussions for the other cars.
In the meantime, I will ignore the “get over it” and “it’s in the past” comments and go on with what’s left of my life. We only get one life on Earth, so it’s our duty to live it to the best of our abilities.
For another post on the effect of a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, see Nancy Stordahl’s excellent post, Cancer and the Domino Effect.
What are your cancer fallout experiences? Has anyone tried to minimize your cancer experience? All rants are welcome.