by Terri Wingham, breast cancer survivor
The moment after you rang the chemo bell to signify the end of treatment or you ate the last crumb on the “Congratulations – You Made It Through Cancer” cake, did you wonder if you could click your heels three times and be transported back into your pre-cancer life? Did you look around in open-mouthed amazement when you realized cancer had forever changed you and that the “end” of treatment signalled the beginning of a brand new post-cancer journey?
Perhaps, like me, the “after cancer” road came complete with some unexpected land-mines like fears of recurrence, lingering side effects, and a volcano of suppressed (because you were too busy battling through pain or nausea to recognize them) emotions. When I wrapped up my final reconstruction surgery (post chemo and double mastectomy), I waited for the streamers, noisemakers, and old-school renditions of Auld Lang Syne to filter through my consciousness as I embraced the brand new, ‘ready for anything because I’d been through cancer’, me.
by Andrew Griffith
reprinted with permission from MD Anderson
Over the past few years, I have reflected on the terms people use to describe their life with cancer. I initially tried to write a ‘glossary’ of the terms: hero, warrior, fighter, veteran, graduate, survivor, victim or living with cancer.
In trying this out with a few friends, one having gone through a comparable experience, one not, it did not work. People adopt different terms at different stages; a journey approach captures this better than an analytical approach.
Rather than the Kubler-Ross1 five stages (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance), written for the terminally ill, I find the William Bridges framework in Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes more helpful. Bridges talks about three phases: ending (or losing and letting go), the neutral zone (in between, or ambiguous phase), and the new beginning (acceptance and embracing). Circumstances change quickly, transitions take time. This provides a convenient frame for cancer: from ‘normal’ to a new ‘normal’, which we can accept, if not embrace.