Once the treatment ends, the appointments lesson, and the feeling of being a patient fades away cancer survivors try to do find normalcy. One day you’re doing the things that you did before you had cancer. You thought those things were over, you weren’t sure if they would return or if you would enjoy what you once did.

Surviving cancer includes grieving your life before cancer. Things now are different, and some things will never be how they once were. It takes time and each day you heal a little more. Every day you see glimpses of that person, the one before cancer. Your body, mind, and heart start to re-connect and you see a new life, one you slowly embrace and start to feel comfortable with again.

Every cancer diagnosis comes with its own unique journey, with many different cancers, treatments, health issues, age, life decisions, it’s not uncommon to feel alone as you navigate a diagnosis. As you step farther and farther away from the day you heard “You have cancer”, some slam the cancer door and forge through not looking back, while others keep the door cracked, unsure and fear of their cancer coming back. Scanxiety, dreading the scan that could possibly push you right back to a place you have worked so hard to come out of.

When I was diagnosed 3 years ago in 2018 with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma that had spread to my lymph nodes I never once muttered “why me” or thought I wasn’t going to overcome this obstacle. I did all the things, chemo, surgery, hormone medications, more surgery, radiation, and 3 years of constant treatment. My cancer was curable, I had good odds of reaching the 5-year cancer-free mark easily. I was confident and over time moved on, not as easy as that sounds. I seek counselling and worked hard on myself and my life reintegrating myself. Thoughts of "will I see my kids get married" or retire with my husband slowly came to a standstill.

Of course, there was a turn of events, I had a sore arm off and on for a few months, it seemed like an injury and I was waiting on an ultrasound to investigate further. However, I woke one morning with more pain than I could handle and headed to the ER. This was the start of the worst three weeks of healthcare I have experienced to date. The ER doctor sent me for an X-ray, while I waited, they tried hydromorphone and ketamine. Both didn’t work and one made me very sick. The pain continued at 10/10 and I was alone and upset. Once the X-ray came back the ER doctor walked in and without any hesitation said he thinks my cancer spread. Just like that… If my head could have spun around 360 degrees, it would of. WHAT? How can someone blurt that out, how can someone be so insensitive. I had not thought that was the reason for the pain, not even for a second.

Well, he was right no matter the way in which he told me. Unfortunately, my breast cancer metastasized to my humerus (upper arm) and grew a large tumour in the bone. Causing pain and the reason medications were not helping manage my discomfort. I was at a high risk of my arm breaking and would be waiting for surgery.

Three weeks of seeing new nurses/residents/doctors/surgeons, all trying to come up with a plan. It felt like I was the first patient they ever had; it was horrible. I was not confident in any of this team and the back and forth, surgery postponed, fasting every day until 7 pm until they decided not today and even the day of surgery more and more setbacks. It was exhausting, I had migraines, was balancing working, and continuing being a mom and wife.

They removed the tumour, stabilized my arm and I will start 30 rounds of radiation. A familiar path I have been already down.

The last month has been a complete blur. I know this feeling, it’s my brain shutting down to cope with the trauma. I remember this feeling from 3 years ago, I am back to where I started and in a worse spot. My doctor says we now watch for when it comes back not if. Try and let that sink in.

Cancer is tough. I admire all those who live with metastatic cancer, I am processing how to move on. The “is this the last time” thoughts are now an everyday occurrence. I’ve lost my bubbly positivity; I am looking for it and hoping time will present it to me again.

I am trying….

o To be the best version of me

o To be grateful for every day

o To really look into my kid’s eyes and hear their voices

o To be present

o To find self-care

o To prioritize health

o To laugh and feel happy

I am trying…

The unexpected is just that. None of us know how we will react, what thoughts or feelings will come about when we are faced with trauma. What I know is that I have experienced a lot in these 40 years of life, and I have a lot more to see and do. In time, this too will make me stronger.

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