Since I have recently written about chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I thought I should write about the end of cancer treatments. What happens next? Finishing the treatments is not the end of the battle. Another one begins as you adjust to normal life again.
Living In A Haze
Looking back at the period from diagnosis to the end of cancer treatments, it’s all blurred. In many ways, I’ve only come to process what I’ve been through after the treatments ended. I’m still processing it. Part of me thinks that I always will.
One of the weirdest things about the whole experience is that I don’t actually remember the exact date I first found out I had cancer. I didn’t even write it down anywhere.
But I remember the date of my hysterectomy. It was the 29th of March, a Friday and two days before my dad’s seventieth birthday. I had the appointment where I found out the diagnosis a couple of weeks before the operation, so I know it was mid-March.
I don’t know if I should remember the date. Everyone else seems to.
But then it doesn’t really matter to me. The date is meaningless. For me, a much more important date is the 23rd October 2019, the date of my last treatment, brachytherapy number two.
The End Of Cancer Treatments Brought With It A Sense Of Loss
You often hear cancer survivors talk about a sense of loss when treatments end.
I might not remember all the significant dates like many others do, but I remember the feeling of loss when I walked away from the last treatment.
Over the months since the diagnosis, I had established a routine built around my hospital visits. They had become the point around which everything else revolved.
It’s hardly surprising. I had months of regular visits during chemo and the five weeks of Monday to Friday radiotherapy sessions. Five weeks of seeing the same radiology nurses. Then suddenly it was all over.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I was beyond happy and relieved the treatments were over. But it was also like falling on empty.
I had survived the treatments and my body had kicked out cancer, but what next?
The Battle Is Not Over When You Ring That Bell
At many hospitals, patients ring a bell to signal the end of treatments.
The treatment is over; you have won one battle, but another one is only just beginning. The battle of returning to normal. For months everything in your life has been structured, now you somehow have to manage the rest of your life.
And you have to manage the cancer survivors’ anxiety.
Every time you have a CT scan and a post-treatment checkup with your oncologist, you worry. I don’t think that worry ever goes away.
I spoke to a brain tumour survivor after my first post-treatment checkup. Justin and I were in the pub opposite the Royal Marsden, toasting the good news that I was cancer free, and I and the other survivor recognised each other from the hospital.
He told me he had just had another yearly checkup. He also told me that each time he feels just as anxious regardless of how much time has passed. Even though he had finished his cancer treatments ten years ago, he said he still goes through the same cycle of fear and relief every time.
The End Of Cancer Treatments Is Definitely Not The End When You Add A Genetic Mutation To The Mix
Doctors consider five years post treatments a key point in a cancer survivor’s life. Survivors who are in complete remission after five years are often considered cured. It’s a bit more complicated when you have a genetic mutation like Lynch syndrome.
I am a survivor of womb cancer, but also a previvor of other cancers linked with Lynch syndrome. Since I already have had cancer and are genetically predisposed, my oncologist says there is a high likelihood I will get cancer again.
But then the doctors told my parents when I was starved of oxygen so long at birth, that it was unlikely that I would develop normally. Yet, here I am today.
I have a lot of respect for doctors and the amazing work they do, but they are not all knowing, all seeing oracles. They can be wrong, too. And sure as hell, I will do everything in my power to prevent the cancer from coming back.
Despite the odds stacked against me, I plan to live a long and happy life filled with adventures. Like I always said, I’ll live to a hundred, and that is still a plan.
So What Next?
Whether or not you have a genetic disposition, you will have regular check-ups with your oncology team once your treatments finish. The regularity of these follow-up appointments will vary, but at Royal Marsden, I saw someone from the team every three months. This year my appointments will be every four months.
At this stage of my recovery, I find it very reassuring to have these appointments so regularly. I have faith that the cancer will not come back, but it’s always good to get the confirmation the bastard is still gone.
Even after the five-year point, I mentioned above, patents might continue with yearly CT scans depending on their age and type of cancer.
Other than that, I will make the most of the rest of my life. I’ll keep up my new, healthier lifestyle, work on becoming a writer and spread as much awareness of womb cancer and Lynch syndrome as I can.
And I Got Some Wonderful News to Kickstart 2021
I want to finish with a bit of wonderful news. I had my regular scan last week and the results this week. There are no signs of recurrence, so I am now one year + cancer free! And I don’t need another CT scan for a whole year.
I’m so happy, grateful and blessed.
So here’s to rebuilding life on better and stronger foundations after cancer.
Thank you for being here and reading the post.
Until next time!
To help us raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and to spread awareness of Lynch syndrome and womb cancer, you can:
- Like and comment on the post.
- Help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends and followers on social media.
- Make a donation to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, see our fundraising page.