Post cancer life is a very weird experience. The world takes on a whole new dynamic, and the question “what have you been up to?” becomes your worst nightmare.
I used to love meeting new people, and, quite frankly, I still do, but I actually get afraid for them when they move past the small talk and eventually find out that I’ve done nothing for 2 years as I’ve been in hospital due to my cancer. And that’s it, it’s my cancer, my possession and burden and companion through my good and bad days. You see the facial expressions change, “oh, but you’re okay now?” and the oh so familiar “you’re very brave” remarks. I’m not brave at all, in fact, I’m still terrified, every day, like every other cancer survivor I’ve ever met. If you think they’re not either they’re lying to you or you don’t know them as well as you think you do. Of course you don’t, none of us know how to tell you that we’re scared, because none of us want to be weak. So we lie through our teeth because we want to move past this, because we crave normality, but what even is normal anymore when you’ve stared death in the face.
The thought of relapse haunts me every single day of my fucking life. I’m not sorry for swearing. The AVN in my hips, each stabbing pain reminds me of the horrors that I saw, felt and experienced. To this day I remember exactly how it felt to be hooked up to a machine poisoning my veins, beeping away in the night. The sounds of nurses going about their jobs as I fought to go to sleep so I wake up one day closer to the end of my treatment. I remember the days I spent curled up hoping the sickness would pass, the agony of my arm being cut open, spinal injections, screaming out during the early hours of the morning because I couldn’t use my legs. I remember it all.
The familiarity you reach of talking about cancer is strange, as if it’s not something that kills a tremendous amount of people. It shouldn’t be so easy for me to talk about something that completely ruined my life. The sheer weight of a cancer diagnosis is enough for some people to buckle, let alone the actual treatment. I know a lot of people like myself that have found it so incredibly difficult to re-adjust to a life after death.
You become two people, of which was summed up in a very good article I read the other day. Pre cancer, and post cancer. Here I am, balls deep in that latter stage, trying everything I can to use my experiences for good, to help others and at the same time, figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I know I’m not alone in this, and I know many others feel these same difficulties that I feel.
I was told by a few people whom I believed to be quite close with, that they wanted the ‘Old Jaymz’ back, and that I should just get over my cancer. Believe me, I wish I could, but the old me is dead, he never came back from hospital.
I met a couple yesterday, who complimented me on how up beat and smiley I am whilst working on a till. They asked me more and more questions while packing away their shopping and eventually found out a little about my story, and of course, it shocked them, but gave more meaning as to why I always wear a smile on my face.
Just like I said to them, you really never know who you’re talking to.
Be kind, always.