Recently, I've noticed more and more new articles popping up on the subject of "care after cancer." I'm intrigued by these for obvious reasons and I'm awakened about the possibility that I'm not the only one with problems relating to survivorship (I really do not like that term). I often feel as though I should just be so thoroughly relieved and happy but then I question why I am not and am instead in a constant state of worry. I am completely cognizant of the fact that the after-cancer "issues" affecting me are likely not near the physical ones that most other survivors are dealing with since I never went through chemo nor radiation. My physical pains are all from surgeries alone. Because of this, I tend to devalue myself along with my worries and concerns and I often feel insignificant and over-dramatic. Yet, I have very little control over these issues that plague my mind... and I address them daily. I am so very aware of how I am portraying myself to others when I'm fighting through anxiety and it's not a pretty sight. I feel pathetic, and not myself. Mostly, I feel out of control. Anxiety and panic didn't show up in my life until about eight months after the cancer diagnosis. I don't know about any of you, but to me this poses a little more of a problem because I wasn't used to having them and I've lived life experiencing it without them which makes me crave going back to that as I hang on to those feelings of "normalcy." It amplifies the frustration of having to deal with anxiety.
Here's the article I read today...
"Who Should Lead the Shared-Care Cancer Survivorship Model?"
I suppose I am very fortunate in this particular subject. I have an oncologist who remains overseeing my care- every six months or more depending on what shows up in the scans. I actually don't have a primary care physician, which I know I should get, but in all honesty, the only time I ever go is when I need an antibiotic because everything else is overseen by my oncologist or other specialty doctors. If I have a symptom of anything, I just go to urgent care... Now that I type this for the entire world to read, I am definitely thinking that I should get a PCP. However, I would rather have a Naturopathic Doctor. In California, Naturopaths are legally able to be a PCP... I used to live there and LOVED mine, but then I moved back to the Midwest where it's like going back in time and most people don't even know what a Naturopathic Doctor is. So I guess that's my current excuse for not having a PCP. I'll get on that. Meanwhile, having been through a physical and mental state of shock and a legitimate traumatic experience, I've been diagnosed with PTSD by one doctor and have HORRIBLE panic attacks that may or may not eventually go away. I'm working on that. That's my biggest problem is having to deal with anxiety and all the memories that cause it. The little things are the physical things... I'm down a kidney (no noticeable difference, thankfully), I have physical scars all over my body (which really don't bother me as long as I don't touch them and freak myself out) and then there's the consistent pain in my hip where the titanium "mega-prosthetic" hip replacement sits. Sometimes that pain is just a little annoying while other days it keeps me from standing up. So, I guess I have some issues trying to "be normal" and live life as "normally" as possible considering it's NOT NORMAL and never will be. And it's OK, it really is... it's just hard, to put it simply. It's not easy living after cancer, but I think we would all agree that we will take the difficulties over the alternative.
Regarding the above article, I hope that the trend goes towards Oncologists taking on the lead role in care after cancer. As a survivor myself, I much prefer someone SKILLED and TRAINED watching over me and my every little spot or symptom which only THEY would know is a potential issue or not rather than a PCP who is only going off of the general norm. They're also much more versed in the effects of having gone through cancer and in my opinion know a lot more about life after cancer than a PCP would considering their experiences... even when considering mental vs physical.
There was one article I read months ago which I am unable to find again today. It really resonated with me. It was about how life after cancer can often be the most difficult part of cancer. It really made sense to me because it explained that while we are in fight mode, we are in a team and have a plan and we generally go about the motions we need to go through to GET THROUGH the fight. Then, as we heal, we aren't given another plan and sort of just set free as survivors. There are no more routines, no more schedules, no more serious issues to worry about and so then the anxiety of all that we've been through starts to take place. Life after cancer, while it may seem ridiculous in comparison to what fighters go through during cancer treatments, can often be the most challenging part of cancer... at least mentally speaking. The article interviewed a few cancer survivors and mentioned that some people even go so far as to just sit in the chemo chairs on the days they used to come for a variety of reasons... one being that they felt safe and taken care of in that chair and another being that it was routine that comforted them. There were some really great stories in that article and I am so very sorry that I was not able to locate it today. Perhaps it will find its way back to me. In any case, the point was so spot-on... life after cancer really can be the most difficult part of having cancer. And, I'm happy to read that others are starting to see this and more importantly, there are SO MANY survivors that this has now become a new topic of discussion.
I hope that you share your stories with me and comment below. Love and hugs. Have a happy day!