My chemotherapy schedule has started to wind down. I have one more very intense 8-week block left, which may or may not happen, but either way have completed over 9 months of a year-long course of chemotherapy.
You might think I’d be ecstatic. Isn’t this what I’ve been waiting for all this time? But after 9 straight months of having my body beaten down, there is not ecstasy, but a feeling of “What has happened to me?” and “What do I do next?”
The thought of going back to my regular life is scary, and feels impossible. My body is a shell of its former self. My psyche is scarred. Work? Friends? A normal day? How could I do these things when so much of what made me who I am is lost?
And so much has happened since I veered off track and left, and others around me have continued with their normal lives, doing exciting things like finishing their educations, starting private practices, getting married, having babies. I feel like I can’t catch up. Like I’m way out in the ocean, and everyone else is on shore, smiling and laughing and packing up and moving on.
I’m writing this at 4am because that’s when I’m awake these days, due to some bizarre affect affect of the chemotherapy. It’s a time when I’m not quite sure if it’s early or late, and everything is quiet except for the dull buzz of the few cars on the highway miles away.
But we all know you are strong, u’ll come out of it with flying colors 🙂
Love and prayers 🙂
I can never know what this has been like for you…but I know you’ve been running through a hellish gauntlet. Thank you for your honest reflection upon what has to be a truly shitty experience. Sometimes just breathing is a heroic task. For what it’s worth, you have the prayers and well wishes of THIS friendly stranger.
Peace and better days to you….
Madhavi II Kaerlighed Magazine says
Oh, i can understand you so much. But i think when your power is back, you will have again a wonderful life with lots of energy and able to move on.
I’ve been following your difficult journey because your words speak to me. Once in a while my own journey speaks back.
Sometimes it’s not about the cancer.
Yes. It’s about everything.
Kelly Fordon says
I admire the way you write honestly about your struggle and I am sorry you have to go through it. I hope that other people feel less alone because you have shared your pain. I hope that you feel better soon.
Give yourself some time. You are an inspiration to others. I can only guess at what you are going through. I understand though as my wife passed away 2 years ago from breast cancer and the ravages of chemo. She developed either an allergy to the taxol, or it caused a fibrosis of her lungs. It was 6 months from the lumpectomy till she passed. I have good feelings for you having gone through this as you have.
Good luck with your last round of chemo, and take care. You are an incredible strong person for what you have gone through.
Sue Klump says
It is like post traumatic stress syndrome. I found that while going through the chemo was no picnic, when it and my radiation ended, the anger came out sideways and every other way. I was done and yet the anger hit like a mack truck. It passes, the experience never will, but it will make you a different person with new priorities and possibilities. Bless you on this journey.
Those of us who have experienced some kind of trauma or significant life change (especially an illness) can really understand this, Elana. Somewhere along the entire process, you’ve changed, and it creates a disconnect. “What’s happened to me,” “I used to… (fill in the blank)”, “Why can’t I….”
We want to feel and be normal, whatever that is. I think the biggest thing we want is that blissful ignorance we had before an illness or incident, when our biggest worries focused on everyday things rather than fearing for our lives and living through painful illness and painful procedures.
We see life differently, and perhaps there might be a purpose in it. There’s a grieving period, missing our former selves and life before “…”. It takes time to replace the “why me” by understanding we as humans are far stronger than we think.
It’s hard to see others packing up from the shore, but then you realize there are others floating in the water with you trying to find those same connections. We’re there to help each other get to shore – maybe not the same shore, but somewhere we can plant our feet and start over.
Look around – there are a lot of us waiting to get to that shore with you. You can do it 🙂
caroline sabi says
Sometimes we need to just live one breath at a time….I can’t even imagine what this past year must have been for you, even though you did such a fantastic job of being so real in all your sharings…know that you are so very loved…and yes…sometimes it’s just one breath at a time. sending you waves of love!
12 years ago I battled Leukemia and remember how hollow I felt after chemo, radiation and the loss of all that defined my life. I had to do physical therapy to graduate from a wheelchair, to a cane to self sufficient. It took a lot of counseling and giving myself Grace and time to go through the healing and grieving process. As the Murphy’s Law poster child, I’ve had complications at every turn. Yet God continues to carry me through every trial and setback. I have survived impossible odds at times but I have come out with a wonderful life that I never could have imagined. Changing perspective and finding the positives in your situation will come. Give yourself time, patience and Grace to heal.
The Trauma. Oh it is so real. I won’t candy-coat or tell you it will be better or give it some time, not that those things are not uplifting in their way.
I’m 5 years out now. I’m still a bit of a basketcase and lost. I will never be the same after veering off… Some of that is sad, traumatic, intense, causes denial… And some is clear to me that is MY journey – it’s all part of my journey. I haven’t got many answers or some major epiphany about it. But days go by and little by little, I believe. I know that each step I take moves me, even if I have no idea to where.
I still have long-term effects and I have another disease that together along with true trauma claim me as dis-abled. I’m learning still how to cope with it all.
I am alive!
I am cancer free!
I’m also a momma, a Ga Ga (grandmother), a friend, a free spirited gal who loves the air, the sky, great music when I *can* listen without being gutted, being real…
I remember that last chemo and all of the mixed feelings.
I think sometimes that I’m still in shock. But it really IS very different now. The fear is diminishing, what is important sure came to the forefront. I’m not living like every day is my last, but I am aware of how precious it all truly is.
You are precious and I so appreciate you.
Much love. xoxo
If I could give you a big squeeze, I would. You may feel lost at sea, but you are really paddling in and we are all here waiting for you. You will find your spark and your joy. Normal is a relative term and your new normal will be spectacular. You are a light to so many. xoxo Love, grace and good mojo your way.
Thanh Uyen Le says
Others have continued on with their lives, and so have you. Had they met the same challenge as you, they would have stopped right where they were, and dealt with what was handed to them.
You’ve done a most beautiful job of processing this curve ball. The sadness and loss of your former priorities will make way for a deeper understanding and compassion for all others undergoing their curve balls.
TH Ong says
Your words touched me deeply and I feel it. Reminds me of my own journey.
Your words says you are a strong person.
God has taken you this far and he will be with you all the way. I know it is a lonely journey but notice all the positive things that has also happened along the way and you will know God is with you. There are people around you, supporting you – these are the angels, God has sent for you.
Stay strong and stay positive. I am sure you will beat this.
Those who care enough will double-back and pick you up to rejoin them in their lives and to rejoin your life, where you are at, and a new reality will be created by all involved. I remember how you feel, and how odd it was to have to jump back into something already in motion and seemingly going a hundred miles per hour. The good thing, however, is that when you do get back to the race, your perspective and thus the race itself, will have forever changed for the better. Peace and love to you, David
Lisa Lesnikoski says
My Heart hurts for you so much. I can feel the pain
and sadness in your words. Thankyou again for your
honest and brave words.
I continue to hold you in my Heart………..
Tons of encouragement to you from a fellow traveler, whose journey, though not as intense as yours, has invoked the same kinds of feelings. Eventually the dark, dank, scary forest gave way to a beautiful meadow full of sweet wildflowers, a fresh water spring and the bluest sky I have ever seen with bright rays of warm sunshine tickling my skin. It’s like chemo and recovery was the climb up the mountain and now the new journey is full of possibilities that I could never have imagined. It has been difficult to see my old life and way of being fall away and I had to let go of it in order to move forward. *OUCH*!
Love to you in this poignant and tender part of the journey.
Loving thoughts and well wishes to you, Elana! Those who endured the fire bring others to the light. You will be an extraordinary healer, having healed yourself first. Before this illness, you were wise, funny and loving beyond your years. I rejoice to anticipate the fullness of your wisdom, strength, love, kindness, compassion and humor unfold when the critical time passes and you can integrate the entire experience into your vast consciousness. You, true healer and visionary, will arise from woundedness, weariness and trauma to embrace the light of life and change the world.
Maria Tempert says
I know I’m just a stranger and another of your many followers but Sweetheart these times in our lives where our health takes the front seat is a moment to pause and reflect. The Higher Powers work in mysterious ways bringing us to a screaming halt when our dreams and goals are all within reach. Right now it makes such little sense as we endure the suffering and challenges. As the people we once were are just left in photographs. Fragments of our happiness, our health and our loves are preserved in paper and in time. Yet here we are in the present and what an injustice it all seems like.
Yet don’t stop moving forward. The Beautiful Elana that was So full of life will come back to you when this is all over. It will be in baby steps, merely one foot in front of the other, you may feel like an outsider, like this place you called home is foreign, the friends you once enjoyed are a distant reality but Love….You belong with all these wonderful people on the Sandy Beaches living your dreams.
This is only a hiccup in the grander picture of all the success that is coming your way. It might be 4 am but in a year it will be another world, another Elana, and you won’t need to turn back. As your life has changed and as you gone through all this chemo know that your Prefect Life, the life you can’t even image living now was all working in your favor. Your dream career was lining up for you, the partner of your dreams was going through their life to meet you in the future, everything that may be too good to be true is coming. It was getting Ready as you are getting ready to finish up your chemo. Everything is Divinely Aligning now.
So LOVE, The best is still Yet to Come. Keep writing, keep letting us know you’re here with us feeling and expressing all that you feel comfortable sharing. We feel your sadness, your pain, the despair but we all know that sooner than later this will all be just a Memory and we’ll be partying with you as you take on your dreams and kiss this part of your life good bye. Let’s get ready for the Awesomeness that is just around the corner. Alana your time to shine even brighter than you ever could foresee is coming. Many miracles are on their way on the wings of your Angels.
Heal, Rest, and Prepare Love!
Dee Sulenski says
Elana, thus book is, obviously, related to Breast Cancer, but I truly believe that this after-care information might be helpful to you.
“After Breast Cancer A Common-Sense Guide to Life After Treatment”, by Hester Hill Schnipper
Hugs and prayers for strength and joy. <3
Beatriz Cantelmo says
I am a three time cancer survivor (melanoma cancer), and have been on partial remission for 4 years now. My journey with cancer started 12 years ago. I must say that there are some parts of this process that one can really dig in as deep as you are starting to after treatments are over. Everything changes in our lives. We change. It is not just because of cancer. The old life and person that I once knew no longer exists, even though I am still here. Sometimes, I have glimpses, and reminders of my old self when I least expect. All I can tell you is that things do get into a place where it is not so “twilight zone” like. Or maybe, one becomes used to living in twilight zone mode. Whatever the case, hang in there. Don’t dwell too much on what has happened to you, if you can help it. Protect your brain and spirit (whatever is left of it anyway). Best of luck with everything. You will get through this.
I began my awful journey with recurrent mucinous endometrial adenocarcinoma just about the same time as your journey. Somehow I found your website and read it crying for you and me.
So far I have had radiation (came back) and 3 major surgeries (pelvic exentration).
I find it hard to express my feelings and reading your messages have helped me immensely trying to understand and attempt to explain my feelings.
Like you I feel like a shell of my former self. My next petscan is at the end of the month and I live in fear everday wondering if the cancer is still in my body.
Thank you so much for the help your messages have given me. I admire your courage and wish all the very best for you.
Dr. J says
You will get through this!
You are an incredible inspiration to your family, your friends, and even strangers who read your blog!
I cannot being to imagine what it’s like going through what you have, but I felt a bit of it during my years of anorexia and even now as I struggle with running injuries.
I always feel like everyone else is on a blissful shore, not having accomplished much with my life (as far as I can tell). A wise person once told me that you can only strive to be better than your former self. So forget about comparing yourself to others. Everyone is on their own journey. Strive everyday to be a little better than who you were yesterday. Even if it’s an acknowledgement that change is coming. This should be an exciting time for you!
I wish you the best of luck in your journey!
Carol Warren says
i think most survivors feel this way…..what next. Your whole life is wrapped up in treatments, fighting to survive and the life you knew and sometimes the people you knew has all moved on without you. But you take it one day at a time and you do the best you can on any given day. Some days are good, some not so much but eventually ( and this can take some time), you start to find your new normal. You are a strong intelligent woman and you will get thru this and you wills thrive,
Elana, my darling…as with anything, that is their journey, this one is yours, for now. Breath in, and breathe out, put one foot in front of the other, resist those Overwhelming thoughts, And take one moment at a time. Try to picture the road ahead, a time when cancer so far away, you barely can recall the ordeal. Love you.
janet ott says
Thank you for an honest (as always), vulnerable post. Your life has not been on hold – you’ve been busy healing. Your questions resonate with me, as I lost my partner (a 25 year relationship) a year ago to cancer. I believe in always living into a question in my life. Maybe after many losses our question is “How do I fall in love with my life again without__________” How can I be fully alive after______”. May you thrive in all ways. Hugs and blessings to you.
You have an amazing gift at communicating your journey. I wish this whole experience was behind you, a hideous memory. I hope and pray you will recover from this round of chemo faster and better than prior doses.
You’re very courageous Elana, and it takes great courage to believe the best is yet to come.
I am just knocked out by your courage in sharing the literal kind of dark night of the soul that you describe so precisely. I don’t think you will ever fully know how your words can impact others, and right now I doubt you have much energy to care.
But please know that having read your post this morning, I will carry a little pocket in my heart that holds your words and wishes you strength for the journey. Sometimes just getting out of bed is an enormously courageous act, writing about it is truly generous. Hoping things can take a better turn for you very soon, but honoring and saluting your unflinching honesty.
I am a little over one year out from my heart attack. I remember being on the stretcher being put in an ambulance and feeling like I was checking out and asking God or whoever to please let me have some more time with my children. I made it, but no one can ever understand what that is like except me. It happened to me… I am still recovering and so will you, but it takes a huge amount of time and yes, you will never be the same. You will find out who truly loves you and who stands by you and you may be surprised who that turns out to be. But it is ok, because you are here and you have the chance to be whoever you want to be right now. No, you will not be the Elana you were before, how could you be? What you will offer in your life will be of great value but different and that is totally ok. I practice yoga 4-5 days a week and my mantra is “I’m alright, right now.” That is all we can hope for… xoxo
Yoni maron says
Hi dear Elena
This last post seems so familiar.
We seek understanding and compassion yet i know as I seek it my self that its only me who can supply my life with this nourishment of hope. Lost home, intimacy, ability to earn. But hey i got me ! So I cant wait for anyone. And need not. Will study to expend degree and push to do what i like best: filmmaking. Even i have to limp all the way to the set. This new us is indeed different then our immidiate surroundings. Most my friends diaper the 2nd born. Open business, travel and follow the routine. It is people like us whom are blessed with an opportunity to be awaken, aware and mindfull. Meditation is life. Itll bring us to be healthier. We can radiate our inner light to the universe and it’ll pay back as wonderful times will come our way. Awaken your chakras. Everyday. Your body will respond. It’ll nourish your beautiful soul.
Much love health and abundance to you
Elana, I’ve been reading your blog for months. Today is my first comment. I clicked on today and saw your new “quick start” pic and honestly thought you look radiant. I know that sounds absurd to you but – you have a clarity that people can see physically just looking at you AND that clarity in your writing is why you touch so many.
Isn’t it amazing that as beat up and tortured as you feel – you are more able than ever to express the depth of life to so many of us? To connect and strike a chord that resonates with all of us? Imagine how much more so when you come out the other side of this healthy and feeling stronger again?
You don’t have to “know” what to do next or how you “should” feel. My guess would be to feel first and then the knowing will follow at some point.
You are just amazing! You have done so much during this time! You have put together a book, you have touch so many lives, you went to a conference, you look beautiful, you got rid of negative people in your life. And those are just the few things I know.
You are just amazing! and look so beautiful!
I wonder if you have a dog? my daughter got a frenchie and initially I was no, not a good time, but I was proven wrong. He is the best!
Did I say you are amazing??
Wishing you a great day!
Hang in there, Elana. I can’t even attempt to understand what you’re feeling right now. All those complicated feelings rushing at you… it must be terrifying. But you’re not alone. We’re all here with you. Thinking of you. You’re not alone!
Alexa Roy says
You’ve been helping me find peace of mind on ZenPsychiatry since before I starting seeing reading about your life changing dealings with cancer. It’s been helpful reading about how be helpful to someone who has cancer, as I’m a young nurse, as well as a friend and family member to those who battle cancer. I hope you know that you have a voice and strength that inspires me. I liked your post about self care and Equanimity a lot. I feel that you help people with every word you write and will continue to help untold amounts of people in your future. Your courage makes me speechless. I continue to look forward to reading your articles whenever I see you’ve written something in my inbox.
Jo Entwistle says
Dear Elana, I found your blog a couple of months ago and of all the blogs I read on cancer/health your’s is the one I feel the most in tune with and find the most inspiring in terms of my own experience.Your writing is so lucid, so spot on and so wise too.
I’m just over three years out from breast cancer and can totally relate to your feelings approaching the end of treatment. The focus is on getting through (and your treatment is much longer and more gruelling then breast cancer), but the real process of dealing with cancer comes when treatment ends. I won’t lie, it’s very hard. Far harder than I expected and harder than active treatment. I must admit I’m a terrible worrier. The mental battle to regain trust in my body, begin to feel normal was very tough. The fear was with me every day. Not a day went by when I didn’t think about what had happened. But gradually the moments of fear shorten and lessen and the space between the moments increases. It has been slow going but I’m almost there now. I’ve reached a point of being almost normal and even find myself ‘sweating the small stuff’ when I should have wisdom and perspective on how precious life is. (And this week I’ve worried far much about work than cancer!) There will be many more 4am moments- I had more than I care to remember – but those will also gradually stop. Now I practice mindfulness meditation every morning, do some yoga to gain stability and stillness and I took up dancing (Zumba, salsa) which has made me feel joy again. They also have given me my body back. I like it again.
Finally, remember you are not alone. Reach out even at 4am. I collected quotes from fellow cancer people that inspired me and gave me hope and I had one friend I could call if it really got too much. And also remember it’s one moment at a time. The awful 4 am moment will pass. It will be replaced with a neutral one or a joyful one in time. You will rejoin your friends on the shore in time. Breathe through it and watch it burn out. I wish you the very best for the last treatment block.
You are so beautiful. I have been listening to your Blog and it’s very honest. Your not afraid to be vulnerable and true to the reality of cancer and death and the emotional conflict. You are most definetly ten steps ahead, dont worry about falling behind 😉
Lynn Taylor says
I became a Buddhist while working as a Hospice nurse. The Sanskrit word Samsara, “to wander” leads us to understand our existence as being on a cycle of rebirth, old age, sickness and death. I learned that suffering comes about in two ways; either wanting what we don’t have or wanting what we cannot keep. How true! At 62 with chronic pain, fear of the future overwhelms me at times. Acceptance and courage required.
Did you know that most MD’s would refuse treatment for cancer? What’s holding up a humane course of cancer treatment? That’s a loaded question I know.
I believe Elana that your courage, openness and insight will make you even more compassionate for others. This trauma shall not be wasted. Sending love,
a supporter says
The thoughtful, poignant, and loving comments that so many people have posted to support you were unbelievably touching. It was the love that so many people are sharing with you that actually made me tear up. You people are amazing.
Your post makes me think that this must be like coming back from a foreign country where you had a powerful and life-changing experience day after day, and everyone else is exactly who they were when you left. You feel like everything that matters has changed and yet you are back in the same old town and it is hard to find your footing.
I think anyone who has a huge life-altering event goes thru something like this. You come out on the other side a bit stunned, and it does take time to find your footing. I had a full-term baby die at birth and I delivered and they sent us home from the hospital (empty-handed) the next day and we walked in the same house as completely different people. We didn’t have the faintest idea what to do at first. It took time to figure out who we had become.
v. brooks says
Sending peaceful vibes your way. I have learned this past year that everyone has their time I am trusting your time will come. You will no longer be in the ocean your life will be filled with an overflow from marriage, children, and a fast tracking career this is a pit stop a minor kink in the journey of life.
Erin W says
I just discovered your incredible page and story and am powerfully moved. You have just been through the same treatment and exact diagnosis my daughter did 10 years ago. She was 4 at diagnosis and underwent 2-1/2 years of treatment. I want you to know we are all Interconnected and I am grateful to have stumbled upon your brave story, bringing the darkness to the light.
I deeply understand looking across the shore at life going on. Some things will never be the same, but new will emerge. My daughter is thriving and she would want to assure you there are people who made it through to the other side.
Dear Elana, I do know how you feel. I finished frontline chemo for Ovarian Cancer (3c) in March. I was bald, anemic, had no brows nor lashes, had (have) am scarred from my boobs to my pubes, had no taste buds, no energy, was anemic, had neuropathy in my feet, hearing loss from chemo, and a doubtful prognosis.
Now many months later, my best advice (if you care for advice — I know I didn’t) is to Keep Your Eye on the Prize. True, we will never be who we were. We lost so much. But the energy, the taste buds, the hair, the lashes and brows (Latisse!) all come back. They really do. And one day, you look in the mirror, and you see your own face! And you wake up, and you feel like YOU! And the enthusiasm comes back. That’s the best part.
When I was going through chemo, I saw no light at the end of the tunnel . . . I was a depressed grouchy bleak mess. But as it turns out, there really was a blazing light at the end of that tunnel.
I don’t know my cancer outcome. Recurrence is the most likely scenario. And yeah, I’m scared (though I do try to embrace denial). I am not who I was. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to fulfill the dreams I had back then . . . probably not. But right now, and for the past several months, I’ve felt more than fabulous. I’m still me, even though some things have changed. Try to keep your eye on that prize.
Michele St. John says
I know this feeling even though I did not have cancer. It’s the aftermath of trauma, or it is itself trauma – anyway, it is like an illness in and of itself, one that needs to be attended to and treated even after the immediate physical illness has passed. I had bad family trauma, and then illness in the middle of my career. I used to be so bright and forward thinking, so confident things would work out, and then it all fell apart for several years. I was very sick, and then very defeated. And now it’s better, and I’m married, and my life is very good. But I am terrified in the mornings. I feel lost, I think “I am alone.” I feel ungrateful, out of the swim, with no one really to talk to about it. My life is irretrievably changed. Things are getting better, and may be great in the end, but I will never be the same. I will never be “grateful” I went through all that – and don’t listen to idiots who tell you to be grateful, or let it go, or whatever. That just means they didn’t live something so soul-shattering. Be easy on yourself, very very easy. You will come back. You are still here. Life is still here, and it still embraces you, even when you have a very hard time feeling it or understanding what happened.