What do you do when the last treatment is over and those weeks and weeks of medical visits and appointments are no longer on your calendar? What's next?
This video is a great reminder for both patients and those who love them of the ongoing challenges following a cancer diagnosis. The uncertainty, the long term impact of treatments and the need to redefine your future and your priorities are topics that deserve compassionate conversation. Having people in your life willing to listen long after the acute treatment is over is important. Life will be forever changed in a multitude of ways - some wonderfully postive and some that create challenges. If you are a patient who has had cancer, seek support from someone who cares and get clear information on exactly what type of follow up you need. If you are the friend or family member of someone finishing cancer treatment, stay connected. Ask how they are, give them space to share their concerns, and don't expect them to always have an upbeat and grateful attitude. Their journey might be more like a roller coaster but stay on the journey with them and share the ride where you can.
I was struck as I watched the video by of how well it also speaks to my own health challenges. While I am grateful not to have had cancer, my autoimmune disease also creates a roller coaster experience for me. My health changes week to week and, sometimes, even day to day but my challenges aren't visible to most people. After almost 25 years, the topic of my health is a rather old story but one that poses real experiences for me to this day. I value so much the people who continue to give space to my conversations on my health, my frustrations, my successes, my limitations and my irritation at the journey. It is wonderful to have people in my life who see me as I am and are willing to offer empathy and support when I need it. Most days I am grateful for all that I have and I certainly know that my situation could be a great deal more difficult, but long standing challenges of any kind can be exhausting and I am getting so much better at slowing down my life and concerning my energy for what really matters. One of the many gifts of my illness.