My Experience with Loss that Accompanied my Cancer Diagnosis.
Lung Cancer Survivor
As a cancer survivor of eight years, I feel it's important to educate people on the issue of loss that goes along with the diagnosis. I was only forty-one years old when I was told I had lung cancer. I'd never even smoked which made the scary diagnosis that much more shocking.
Cancer is a terrible disease any way you look at it. Even a positive, upbeat person like me found it difficult to see beyond the life-altering situation. A cancer diagnosis impacts not only the patient but everyone and everything in the person's life. Learning and educating yourself about the losses that accompany this disease is vital for the patient, loved ones and care-givers.
To help ease the fears of the unknown journey ahead of me, I asked lots of questions with my healthcare providers, attended a support group for other survivors, and met regularly with a oncology therapist.
Losses that can accompany a cancer diagnosis
- Grieving the loss of innocence and belief that your are invincible. Loss of safety and naivet'e in regards to health. Mortality is no longer in the back of your mind but often in the forefront
- Loss of Control and inner peace- Much of the loss comes with cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries. Fear of the unknown journey ahead.
- Physical Losses-Many cancer patients lose their hair from chemotherapy (I lost all my hair except for the back. I wore hats and you couldn't even tell I was bald underneath), have memory issues, suffer from sleep disturbances like restless leg or numbness of extremities. Weakness and fatigue are also common when going through cancer treatments as well as nausea and loss of appetite. Many health issues can continue for the rest of a cancer survivor's life. I still have issues with restless leg and numbness of feet when I sleep or sit too long. The nausea mostly left after chemotherapy but my stomach is more sensitive to certain foods now. For example, I easily gag when I brush my teeth or take my vitamins.I also have chronic lung issues because they removed the middle lobe of my right lung. My immune system is not as strong as it use to be which causes me to be sick easily or catch whatever 's going around. Let me clear, I am not whining about my health issues after cancer. I'm grateful to be alive. Getting sick is nothing I can't handle and it sure beats the alternative.
- Loss of independence-There are varying degree's of loss depending on type of cancer and treatments. My twin sister became my Personal Care Attendant when I was diagnosed and helped me through the different levels of the cancer journey.
- Loss of employment-This can be temporary or permanent depending on the type of cancer. This loss can be devastating for those who have found work as a major part of their self-worth and definition of who they are.
- Loss of hobbies and activities- While going through the journey of cancer, there are times when doing things you enjoy are no longer possible. It's easy to get depressed when your not doing things that make you happy. It was hard for me to quit my daily power walks. I finally stopped when I was too weak and nauseous from the chemo.
- Loss of friends or family after diagnosis. I was surprised to learn that it's a common theme to lose friends after a diagnosis. Many people become uncomfortable or afraid when someone gets sick and don't have the skills to cope with the change. The positive side of this is that those that stick around are the true blue friends you can count on. I personally lost three friends that I thought were the real thing. They were the people I spent most of my time with and we'd gone back many years. These friends got together and decided that I didn't deserve a fund raiser that my family put together. I was shocked and deeply hurt at the time but now look back and see they were not friends. It taught me to love myself more and pick my friends wisely.
- Losing friends to the disease. No one wants to get in the cancer club, but once you are, the friendships become very deep and important. Losing these courageous friends is very painful and lonely. I lost four dear friends in my support group including my oncology therapist who also facilitated the group. In my neighborhood, three of us were surviving cancer. Within the last two years I've lost both friends to the disease. I am reminded by these losses to live every day to the fullest. I am grateful and humbled to be eight years cancer free.
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© 2012 Linda Rogers
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