The Impact a Rare Cancer Has Had On My Life

Being diagnosed with cancer 16 years ago changed my life forever. Nothing can prepare your mind, or body to be told you have cancer. A rare one at that with a poor prognosis of 18 months life expectancy. Cancer impacted my mind, the way I look at life and my body. In the beginning, I only thought about the impact it had on my body, not knowing that my mind was going through its battle. It took me over a decade after my diagnosis to find out that mental health care is just as vital as physical health.

The body & mental impact

Most people who have been affected by cancer may be familiar with the impact cancer can have on your body. You may have seen or heard of stories about various symptoms patients have such as fatigue, nausea, weight loss, fluid buildup, hair loss, etc. From my experience, I noticed that these symptoms are the most common ones publicized.

Until recently it was rare to hear cancer patients admitting to having some mental issues as well. I always wondered why this was the case. The main reason is the stigma society has placed on mental health. Up until Covid mental health and the promotion of the “it’s ok to not be ok” campaign was frowned upon. It’s vital to consider the way people were brought up. It wasn’t “normal” to discuss your mental struggles with people. During my cancer treatment, mental health care wasn’t offered to me. I always joke and say that I didn’t know I needed therapy until I was in therapy. It’s the truth!

Impact of survivorship

Even though I have been cancer-free for 16 years and counting, it still has a huge impact on my life. Just because I don’t have it anymore doesn’t mean it doesn’t cross my mind. The thought of cancer goes through my mind every time I go to have a scan. Scanxiety is what they call it and it’s real! The timeframe in which you’ve been cancer-free doesn’t matter, the fear and anxiety are still present. From the smallest of tests to the largest of scans the thought of it all is still in the back of your mind. And once you get the results back it’s a sign of relief. Until next time!

Being a cancer survivor has taught me so much. One thing that was born out of the diagnosis was self-advocacy. To me, I had no choice but to advocate for myself to get to where I am today! I now take my experience and knowledge to help other cancer survivors navigate through the murky waters of healthcare and advocate for themselves. I’ve gained the knowledge and tools for effective patient advocacy. Finding my voice was crucial, and I am not afraid to use it! My voice is the vehicle to get my story heard, my story inspires others, and my story reignites hope when it may have been lost.

Lessons learned

Some choose not to think about the various components of your life that cancer affects. Too much hurt, pain, dark days, and sadness. Changing your perception will make a world of difference. I must admit, I went through so much, but what matters to me is that I got through it and learned things along the way. Not only did I get through it, but I’ve also been allowed to share those impacts with others. I know that it’s had a huge impact, in fact, an impact that is leading to so much progress and positive things!

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