Missing cancer?

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I have been writing a long post about recovery, being home, the Seahawks, opera and family.  I have been working on it for three weeks and keep revising and discarding it.  If is full of joy and optimism and it isn’t true.  I am home, I am recovering well, I am surrounded by great, caring people, everything is going my way, and I am despondent.  What the hell?  I have absolutely no reason to be anything but euphoric.  I am done radiation, I am fairly sure that I am cancer-free, and I am slowly regaining some energy.  What is going on?

My first week home I was full of energy, cheerful and optimistic.  It was great to be surrounded by caring people and I was ready to take on new challenges and get back to work.  Despite a huge snowfall I felt like it was spring.  By last week I was sliding and struggling.  I know this isn’t depression; I have lots of experience with depression and this isn’t it.  I think I was so focused on finishing in Seattle that I didn’t think very much about what would come next.  In a strange way, I am missing radiation and the cancer house.

I talked to a friend, Judi Wallace, last week.  Judi has “danced with cancer” (her metaphor, which I love) and has been very helpful to me on my journey.  We talked about my transition from a highly structured and medically focused world, where I had daily treatments, appointments with nurses and doctors and was immersed in cancer, to life at home.  Judi shared that I am not alone in having difficulty adjusting to a “new normal” after cancer care.

Cancer has been much of my identity for the past eight months.  I need to break free from that and create a post-cancer life.  I can do this.  I need to seize this as a second chance, a new start.  I have all the support that I need, opportunities for great work; I just need to embrace this.  I am optimistic that I can live a joyful, calm and productive life (well, after Sunday.  It is amazing how much brain space preparing to watch the Seahawks deflate New England can consume.)

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12 thoughts on “Missing cancer?

  1. I’m sure this is a super common response. Not on the same level at all, but when my husband and I decided I could leave the workforce I was super excited. But adjusting to that freedom was really, really hard.

    Even if we’re happy about the thing we’re moving into, change is really hard.

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  2. YOU HAVE DONE A GREAT JOB IN DEALING WITH YOUR CANCER TREATMENT, AND WE HAVE READ ALL OF YOUR BLOGS SINCE WE FIRST BECAME AWARE OF YOUR STRUGGLE.. YOUI ARE RIGHT PAUL.. IT IS TIME TO TURN THE PAGE, AND MOVE ON WITH YOUR LIFE. WE WISH YOU GOOD LUCK, AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR YOU.

    KERRY & YVETTE HOPE

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  3. You will get through this. I have always found transition difficult. You will return to a peaceful, productive, happy life in good time. We are praying for you. It’s impossible to get dropped from our prayer list. Karen and Bert.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  4. Paul I’ve commented on nearly all your posts so why stop now? Again your blog takes me somewhere. I remember a conversation I had quite a while ago with someone who was presented with idea that ‘cancer was a blessing’. How in hell could cancer be ‘a blessing’! Well for one the person involved has a very clear cut identity. You know exactly who you are in that moment. After it is gone….who are you? One of the greatest diseases to strike our humanity I believe is loneliness. A cancer patient is never alone. The swarm of people who surround you could make you feel somewhat like a rock star for a short period. None of what I have said may be relevant. Its just my thoughts. xxx

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  5. Paul,

    It’s always good to read your blog whether you be in sunshine or in rain. During treatment, one’s days are pretty structured as one needs to be here & there, doing whatever needs to be done. After one has graduated from the treatment, one’s schedule is amazingly free & flexible. One does a bunch of soul searching in there, somewhere & what one finds is not always rosy. This might not be the case for you but it’s something to think about. Sure, another idea from another person…

    Paul, have you checked in with David about the next Mindfulness Class? I’m pretty sure there’s one coming up in the next few months. You’ll love it & it may help you.

    I haven’t told our group that you are back. Maybe connecting with a few of them may help. Meanwhile, I send you positive healing energy to help find your way through your journey. Take care. J

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  6. Do you have any interest in or desire to learn fly-fishing? Check out Reel Recovery, a program that sponsors free workshops for cancer patients and cancer survivors. All you have to do is show up. Everything is provided. No skill gear or equipment needed. It is a life changing experience.

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      • I am so glad. This is a wonderful program. My husband volunteers to assist with programs twice a year. We are both nurses. Even though they don’t need women volunteers, I make myself available on premises just in case. The participants always leave so happy, feeling like they’ve had a vacation from the stress of dealing with their cancer. Some are currently in treatment, some terminal, some many years in recovery. It’s good for everybody. It gives perspective to everybody. I think I will do a post about it. I hope you go. You will love it. Many oncologists sign their patients up and prescribe it as a treatment. It is wonderful. Many patients say it gives their lives back.

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  7. Personally, I’ve always found identity morphs draining. One day I was a struggling graduate student defending my dissertation to a group of professors before whom I’d been grovelling for years; the next day, I was a non-student who my former (the day before) peers were calling “Dr. Kemp.” I had no homework, no classes, no deadlines, no ass-kissing on my agenda. I had no agenda at all. I was just an imposter, pretending to be Dr. Kemp. Short-term euphoria was followed by a much longer period that felt a bit like swimming through mud. It took awhile to grow into my new identity, as I suspect it will for you, too. Now you aren’t just Paul but Paul-who-has-endured-the-most-gruelling-experience. Please be patient with yourself as you grow into your new identity.

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  8. Hi Paul,

    I don’t think I can add any additional insights into what you are feeling, but do think it is totally predictable. I hope you can do whatever it takes to not tip the scale from despondent to depression as I think it is a fine line. I like the go fishing advise and any other social and physical thing you can do. Keep writing too. Hope to see you all soon.

    Love,
    Vivian

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