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Done with treatment and feeling mixed emotions

ruggersocks's picture
ruggersocks
Posts: 78
Joined: Aug 2006

I read this site everyday, but am not much of a poster. Since being diagnosed with rectal cancer in May '06, I've had the chemo/radiation combo, surgery, and just finished my 8 treatments of Folfox last night.

I should be jumping for joy and running as far away from the oncologist's office as fast as I can. But my main emotion right now is anger. I'm just plain mad. I know I've spent the last 8 months just hanging in there and not thinking too much about the realities of Stage III cancer. I'm sure this is all pent up stuff.

I just don't know where to go with it. If it was just me, then fine. But my anger is affecting my kids (4 & 2 yrs) and my husband (who is also dealing with his pent up emotions).

Any thoughts? The idea of starting up counseling for myself just exhausts me, but maybe it's needed. I feel so lost right now and really, just want to cry off and on all day.

Sorry to be such a downer at a time when I should be rejoicing. But I figured you would all understand more than anyone in my life right now. I'm the only one in my family with cancer, thank God, and although they have been wonderfully supportive....I feel alone and lonely.

Ugggh...going for a walk now to take the edge off.

Hugs,
Cheryl

KathiM's picture
KathiM
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

FIRST of all.....
YEA YEA YEA YEA YEA YEA YEA!!!
Naked happy dance for the LAST treatment!!!!!

I found a GREAT consellor that only does cancer patients, right in my treatment center! She used a word that I am finding most of us love....."NORMAL". Yea, these feelings are normal. The next thing will be (don't laugh, please) a sense of loss that you no longer have a life structured around doctors, hospitals, etc.

A very dear friend of mine summed it up....

Coming to the end of cancer treatment is like graduating from High School. All the way thru, you were forced to be places at specific times, do your homework, take nasty tests to see your progress. Then BANG! Congratulations! Here is the rest of your life! Take what you have learned, and go with our blessings!
WHAT???? What in the HECK do I do NOW????? You are giving ME control of my life???? What happens if I mess it up????

Normal. Such a wonderful word in such an abnormal situation.

Hugs, Kathi

RunnerZ
Posts: 185
Joined: Feb 2004

Cheryl,

I read your message this morning and just HAD to respond. I am 44 years old and an 8 year survivor of stage 3 rectal cancer. I too had chemoradiation, surgery, then 18 treatments of chmeotherapy (old fashioned 5-FU). My oncologist warned me that the toughest emotional time would be after my treatment was completed. he said that so many of his patients struggled during this period, despite good results. Well, I thought he was crazy...until I felt awful after returning to work. I was depressed, anxious and wondered how I could ever continue to be a father to my 3 young children and maintain a difficult profession (prosecutor). with the help of other surivivors via the computer, I got my life back a little at a time and today am almost back to normal (a new normal). First, recognize how much you have been through in the past 8 months and give yourself a huge break. I have run marathons...and passed a bar exam to become a lawyer, I can tell you that I have never endured anything harder than my rigorous and lengthy cancer treatment. Be kind to yourself. then try and regain your balance in life a little at a time. I tried to run almost every day...to get outside and feel like I was doing something good for my body. Find a hobby that offers even monets of diversion (crossword puzzles, books, knitting, etc.) that can provide brief respites of peace in a day. Then, try to do one good thing each day...a story for your kids, a walk with your husband, anything that you do for someone else..even small..and recognize that you did a good thing that day. Sometimes the bes I could do post-cancer was watch Brady Bunch reruns with my kids on the couch...but they loved it. Your anger is normal...I still feel it having dealt with cancer at a young age, 36. Keep us informed of your progress, and believe me, every onth you will feel better, both in mind and body.

spok5
Posts: 18
Joined: Nov 2005

I know exactly how you feel! I was dx Oct. 05 with stage 3. I was 42 yrs. old with 3 children. For 8 months I lived day to day and planned for the time when I was off chemo and could get my port out-aahhh then I'd have my life back. So it was a big surprise to me when I was upset and confused after the last treatment.
For 8 months my life had revolved around cancer. All of sudden I was pushed out into regular life and expected to just pick up where I left off. Sorry that I'm going on and on about me- what I really need to tell you is, IT WILL GET BETTER! Take each day at a time just like you had to when you were fighting the cancer. Take the time to do small things that can bring you peace and those around you joy. Some suggestions: get out and exercise a bit, write thank you's to all the people who helped you through this time, plan a fun date with your husband, cuddle with your kids, phone a friend that you haven't talked to in a while, read a good book, volunteer in your community (start out slowly- take your kids and visit a nursing home maybe), try a new recipe, bake and with your children take the goodies to family or friends, with sidewalk chalk draw a big picture on your driveway, pray every morning before you start the day,cry for 12 1/2 min. and then dry your tears and go give your family big hugs and kisses, but most of all... BE PATIENT- IT WILL GET BETTER! Good Luck

chynabear's picture
chynabear
Posts: 483
Joined: Jul 2005

Been there! My husband had just started a new career when I was diagnosed and we were in transit to a new life. I lived with my in-laws during my treatment because it was where my husband was doing most of his training and my mother-in-law could help me with my then one year old.

Towards the end of treatment, I was excited to finally be back with my husband and to start unpacking the new house. Wow, big surprise! I was angry, depressed, cried myself to sleep most nights, etc. I was eating too much of the wrong stuff and tired all of the time. I realized that I didn't fight that hard to live a life full of anger and tears. I found this site and as soon as I posted my first message that resembled yours, I felt a huge weight lift. Then, as I read the responses, I knew I was going to be ok. But, I knew some things were going to have to change. I started reading cancer books, and nutrition books. I purchased an elliptical and a juicer. I immediately felt better after eating better. Then, I started gaining more energy to excercise.

I think that during treatment, we become robots and just get through it. At the same time, we feel like we are DOING something to get rid of the cancer and keep it gone. After treatment, I felt lost (Like Kathi said) and felt helpless, somehow. I felt like I wasn't fighting any more.

Taking control of my attitude, my diet, and my excercise really gave me the strength to get through. Now, I am also more involved in my life. I have a mom's group I attend, I go to arobics class 3 days a week, I started bible study, and I have friends.

If venting here isn't enough, please find someone to help you through these emotions. I know a lot of people here found great counselors to help them through. I'm pretty sure you didn't fight that hard to live angry. Find something that works for you. That first step is always the hardest.

Tricia

CAMaura
Posts: 719
Joined: Feb 2005

Hey there, Cheryl,

You aren't a downer at all...you are honest and it is a pleasure to respond to your post. I agree with the others that your emotions are incredibly normal. Ya know, when we are in treatment, it is like this freight train that we are on...movin', movin' - full speed ahead. We really don't have time to do much more than just react to things - like freaky side effects.
When chemo ends, it is a big gulp. There is a sigh of relief and then a weird sense of anxiety - like the safety net (however crazy that may be) has been taken away...
All I can say is that it has taken me a while to wrap my head around it. I was not angry (not at cancer, anyway) but I had a lot to deal with - and so do you.
First off, the chemo has probably messed with your hormones big-time; so that could be causing you to feel or act a bit loopy (or comletely normal given the circumstances!). Secondly, your body is - unfortunately - loaded with chemicals. And, thirdly, you are just dealing with a whole big bowl of emotions...your life was completely turned upside down. I remember feeling as if every ache and pain was another tumor growing; I remember thinking (yes, I know somehwat irrationally) that all of my wireless stuff in the house might be affecting me. I would talk to my best friend and tell her: "And, oh yea, I burst into tears yet again." Little by little, I had to let go of things. Many epople don't get that you are dealing with a lot; it isn't just: chemo is done so just march back to the way things were...
It took probably a year - or more - for my hormones to settle down. I don't know how long it took to clean out my liver and body...maybe I am still working on that. As for my head - I'm still working on that too! I had super people around me, but, for a while I was self-conscious about my cancer - even though I was loved and supported. I wanted to push itt to the back, but I had to find the balance of not wearing it on my sleeve but being proud that I was surviving and willing to speak freely about intestines!
I do try to take control of my care now and use nutrition and exercise to really push cancer to the back and health to the front. If you are the least bit inclined, I really do think it will help you feel empowered and less angry - and it will help clean out your system so that you do feel stronger (chemo put all of us through the ringer).
Maybe telling you to hang in there sounds like a 'whatever statement', but please do...
I'm not at all happy that you feel alone and lonely...but you are not alone. Anyone who went through what you just did felt the same (or at least can relate to a lot of what you are writing about). This is a goofy, strange period...posting might help you as well as us. Be easy on yourself. You have a full plate - even without cancer - and you sound incredibly thankful. But it really is okay to feel every emotion that has been building...
All the best to you and I hope you enjoyed your walk very much.
Much love and good wishes, Maura

ruggersocks's picture
ruggersocks
Posts: 78
Joined: Aug 2006

Thank you all for your wonderful, loving, and supportive replies. I knew I came to the right place this morning.

After crying, reflecting, saying a lot of cuss words (especially the F word), and praying during my walk...I feel a little better. Not so alone.

I cannot thank you enough. And will keep you updated as I go through my 'stuff'. Because I know you'll always be there (sadly enough, yet comforting at the same time).

Lots of love and hugs,
Cheryl

ninthave
Posts: 12
Joined: Jan 2007

I finished my folfox in may of last year, and I was on cloud nine. I got really depressed after my reconnection. It was nothing like I expected, and still is difficult, the lack of freedom drives me insane. I started with a counselor yesterday, I still have lots of anger and sadness too. Kind of different, I never had children, and question lots of my past decisions now, who expects to get cancer in there 30's. Hang in there, I would try some counseling, I feel guilty laying all this stuff on my family and friends most of the time, but it's gotta come out.

Betsydoglover's picture
Betsydoglover
Posts: 1254
Joined: Jul 2005

Hi Cheryl -

Others have given good advice. What you are feeling is so normal (in this wierd world into which we have been thrust).

In a way I was lucky. I am Stage IV, but my oncologist and I decided to take a break after 6 treatments at the end of Nov 2005. She warned me that not being treated might be the hardest thing I had done so far. At the time, however, it was just a break with the idea that I would go back to chemo in the Feb-March timeframe as long as scans were stable. So, while I was at loose ends and experienced some depression and anger, it probably wasn't as bad as yours because it seemed this was "just a break" and that I wasn't being cut loose - when you are stage IV they don't usually tell you "this is the end of chemo".

Even though I hated chemo, I also felt like I was fighting and the stubborn part of me was determined to function and work thru most of it. When I stopped (even though supposed to be only temporary), though it was great to be off chemo, the challenge was gone and I felt like I probably still had this monster inside me that wasn't being treated. I was alternatively depressed and a bit angry. But, it did get better. And as it turned out, so far, 7 CT and PET scans since we started that break have been clear and so I've been off chemo for 14 months now. And, while I have major scan anxiety every few months, I do feel much better psychologically on the average day. I know you are going through a rough time, but your feelings are normal.

Try to do one nice, simple thing for yourself or with someone else each day. You will probably gradually come out of this, but please get help if that doesn't start happening. Every day past treatment is one more day into the rest of your life and even though it is difficult to see all that now, as you progress through this post-treatment year, be patient and things will get better.

I'll be thinking of you,
Betsy

jsabol's picture
jsabol
Posts: 1156
Joined: Dec 2003

Hi Cheryl,
Like you, I am not much of a poster these days, but I had to chime in.
I am a stage III survivor; surgery in Dec 03, finished chemo in July 04. I just had another 3 month check-up (and for the first time I didn't need any Ativan the night before!) and I remain "No Evidence of Disease".
When I finished chemo, folks here welcomed me into the "waiting room"; you've gotten lots of support and good advice about how hard this step is for all of us. I was soooo distressed that I felt so physically tense and tired at my first follow-up appt, I could have written your post!
I can tell you that it gets LOTS better, but it does take time. I think getting charge of your life after you have been following the schedule of treatments and appts does leave a huge "Now what?" for all of us. And the fear of recurrance is huge.
I really support the "evaluate your lifestyle" approach. All practicioners would agree that less red meat and multiple daily servings of healthy fruits and vegetables decrease the risk of colon cancer (and help overall health in so many ways). Exercise is also key to maintaining health. Maybe you and hubby can have a "now what can we do" conversation and support each other through this next phase.
For a while, I "corresponded" via private e-mail here with others who were in the same place. Finding time to get support and perspective is tough, but it works, and you will get through this. The feeling of being alone is enormous; find others to help you through.
So, congrats on the big step of finishing chemo and continued best wishes on just getting back to a "normal" life. Forgive yourself for these really normal feelings!
Hugs and hope to you, Judy (who is 3 years out and getting a better perspective all the time)

taraHK
Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

What you are describing is, I believe, actually very common. Certainly happened to me. I did go to see a counsellor -- which was very helpful for me. The first time I met with her, and started to describe what I was experiencing, she said You are going through 'post-traumatic stress'. That made a lot of sense to me. Like soldiers, when we are in the battle, we may not be able to afford much time to reflect, mourn, or even feel. It all hit me when the "battle" part was completed.....I wish you all the best.

Slyster
Posts: 8
Joined: Aug 2006

RUGGERSOCKS...You need to go buy yourself a pair of red dancing shoes...this is a chapter from my cancer journal that everyone loves and it may help you...I had stage 3, also. Keeping a journal of all your feelings would help you tremendously...get it all out and it won't seem so bad....here is my journal of the Red Dancing Shoes...

I think everyone should own a pair of red dancing shoes. It's not so much used for dancing but for having the courage to get onto the dance floor. We don't know what songs will be played in our lifetime but we had better be prepared to dance. Red shoes help. Red shoes will give you an attitude. You can't help but notice them. They sort of say 'here I am, deal with me'. Cancer teaches you how to deal very quickly. I put these shoes on when I went in to have my first Chemo session. The room was very sterile. Green lounge chairs that I would have sold at garage sale long ago stood silently awaiting its next patient. Sunshine crept very timidly through the windows into the room. Seated in some of the chairs were my soon to be comrades. I came in smiling sporting my red dancing shoes and determined to make the best of it. I asked all kinds of questions of the nurses there. Where is this, what is that? How long? Patients looked at me and probably said, "Who is this woman wearing red dancing shoes?" I introduced myself to the patients and wanted to know about their ordeal. Maybe, just maybe, I would learn something from their experience with Chemo. I picked out my royal throne and sat down anxiously awaiting my destiny. My body sank into its green leather and it was more comfortable than I thought. Although, I don't think any one can get completely comfortable in that room. My eyes scanned the room. In the right corner of the room, I saw tons of books. I surely hoped these nurses had read them all. That was also the area where they kept the drugs. I had already informed myself of what drug I would be taking. (Thanks to a son-in-law that worked at MD and researched cancer). God is good! When she came to me to attach me to my lifeline, I asked what I was taking (checking up on her) and how much. I had already spoken to my oncologist and told him that I don't need as much because my body is sensitive to medications. He didn't listen. I should have whacked him with my red shoe. There was a small table set up with snacks. I thought for a moment as to when I would be hungry enough for a snack. You are a bit anxious at that moment and food is not what you are thinking of. The nurse found the blue vein in my right arm inside of the elbow. Little did I know at the time that it would be asked to carry me though six months of chemo. You never give a second thought to those little encased rivers unless you think you are drowning. It was show time and I looked at my red shoes. I was ready. Hell, you can do anything with red shoes on. I got though it, I made new friends and I made it known that I am not a quiet one. I will ask questions, I will make sure you know what you are doing and I will survive. I left feeling very satisfied with myself. This wasn't so hard I thought. I can hang. Unattached I sprang from the chair wanting to sport my red shoes in celebration of my first experience with this environment that would be part of my life now. I was not about to peer into the future. I could only handle today and my red shoes would have to wait for the next performance.

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