After Treatment

You would think when your treatment ends that you'd be over the moon, ready to tackle life again and do everything you ever wanted.  Well, for some that's the case but unfortunately, there's growing evidence that shows there are a large number of survivors who struggle with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  A friend of mine, showed me an analogy representing a cancer journey that I've never forgotton. 

The Cancer Survivor's companion, by Dr Frances Goodhart and Lucy Atkins.

"The Storm of Cancer.

Before cancer, you're sailing along in generally fair weather. You're travelling in one direction. You have maps, navigation aids and provisions. You might even be part of a flotilla - you and some other boats, sailing in the same direction at the same time. Life is fine, good even.

Then a massive storm hits - cancer. Your boat is seriously damaged. Maybe parts of it are lost of broken. your maps and provisionals are swept overboard. In the eye of the storm, you lose all sense of direction. Your main terror is that the boat will sink.

Then your cancer care team appear. They are your lifeboat; your rescuers. They attach ropes, patch your boat up and keep it afloat; they come alongside you, and take control of the steering and direction. Slowly, they tow you back to port. Sometimes this journey towards the port is even stormier than the catastrophe itself. But you know you are not alone - you have the lifeboat staff, you make a good team.

As the lifeboat tows your boat back to port you see friends and family on the shore waving and cheering. They are so relieved to have you back. But then your boat just stops. you are not quite back in port. You can see the lights and your happy loved ones. But you're moored just outside the mouth of the harbour. Then your lifeboat, and its team, goes. They drop the ropes into the water and sail away.

You might think: I can get back to port on my own. You've been there before, after all. And you can see it, right there, quite close. But it all feels different now. Your boat is still damaged. You need time for repairs. You need to get a new map and provisions. And you keep looking at the sky - is the storm coming back? You listen constantly, obsessively, to the weather forecast - you hear reports of hurricanes. They may be far away, but you can't stop yourself from feeling that they are coming for you."

Cancer can change you.  Those who haven't been touched by this awful disease may say things like "you've beaten it" and "you must be so relieved you're over it now" but in truth, the hardest part starts after treatment when all your medical team goes and you're on your own.

This is common.  It's normal.  More importantly, you're NOT on your own.  Make sure you join groups or forums or even ask your doctor if you can see a counsellor.  Take all the help and reassurance you can get.  Over the years, you WILL feel less anxious and the fear will lessen.