Elephants And Tea - September 2021 - 44

Conversation REFLECTIONS WITH RACHEL
" Moving On "
From Cancer
NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT CHECKLIST
BY RACHEL MIHALKO
S
ometimes I think life would be easier and make so much more sense if there was a step-bystep
checklist we could follow, day in and day out, especially as cancer survivors finding
healing after treatment. It would be titled something like " ten easy steps to returning to
yourself after cancer " or " a dozen things to do to live your best life post-cancer. " Wouldn't
that be swell, to have everything spelled out for us from the start?
However, cancer, at least for me, was trauma, and there's no easy, self-explanatory way to
move past trauma.
This week I had my two-and-a-half-year survivorship checkup. In the weeks leading up to it,
I wasn't too stressed. I didn't think I had a scan scheduled, just blood work and a visit with the
doctor, and I thought it would be an easy appointment to get through. It's been two and a half
years since I finished treatment, after all. Shouldn't it be easy going back to the cancer center by
now? Other people do it all the time, and they make it look like a piece of cake.
Turns out, I did have a scan scheduled, and boy, did that change things for me. When I got a
letter in the mail from insurance declaring that they wouldn't approve my scan, I found myself
at odds with it. I called my cancer center, and they said they would resolve things with insurance,
and that they would call me back if insurance still wouldn't cooperate.
Once I confirmed with my doctor that he did indeed want me to get a scan, the appointment
that I thought would go smoothly became daunting. I didn't want the CT scan or the contrast
that they inject for it. After all the terrible things I've had infused into my body, I don't want
anything else injected that isn't absolutely necessary.
The couple of days before my appointment, I was a nervous wreck. I could barely concentrate
to get small things done throughout the day, because all I could think about were the terrible
things I had infused into my body two and a half years ago, and how horrible it is to emotionally
relive that.
It's difficult to look at other people in this space and think they're doing just fine with survivorship
when I feel like I'm struggling. Up until the few days leading up to my scan, I truly thought
I was doing great in this phase of life. I assumed I would be fine to go to the appointment all by
myself, but that was before I realized I had a scan scheduled.
I felt like a kid again for needing my mom
to come to my appointment with me like she
did when I was in treatment. I felt helpless and
frustrated, feeling like I wasn't in control of my
circumstances. These feelings reminded me
of what it was like to go through treatment,
feelings which I had no desire to acknowledge,
then or ever.
Pushing feelings down and pretending they
don't exist often seems like the best course of
action to me, but those feelings always come
back to haunt me. I've been wanting to journal
more regularly to work through some of
the emotions still haunting me surrounding
cancer, but whenever I sit down to journal, it
all feels very overwhelming, and I don't know
where to start.
That doesn't mean I shouldn't try, although
it's easy for me to interpret it that way. Taking
challenges one at a time is difficult for me. I
want to tackle every issue all at once, because
it seems simpler that way. You can get it out of
the way, almost like checking off one item from
your to do list before moving on to the next.
I find it difficult to reflect on all of this
without trying to give advice, but, honestly,
any advice I would give is something that I am
still working on, and it would feel insincere to
approach writing this in a way that makes it
seem that I have everything together and all
" figured out. "
Some things may come easier to certain
people, while other things may be a struggle
for them. Regardless, it is so easy to compare
myself and my path to others who have walked
similar roads.
However, one person " living their best life "
may look completely different from another.
There's no perfect blueprint to living your best
life, no matter how much I wish there was one.
There's no checklist with easy-to-follow steps to
adjust to survivorship and life after treatment.
If only it were that simple.
I guess you truly have to take things one day
at a time, no matter how frustrating that can be.
RACHEL MIHALKO IS THE PROGRAM MANAGER AT ELEPHANTS AND TEA AND IS A
HODGKIN'S LYMPHOMA SURVIVOR. SHE LOVES THEATRE, WRITING POETRY, AND
CRAFTING OF ALL SORTS. READING HAS FUELED HER PASSION FOR WRITING, AND YOU
WILL RARELY FIND HER WITHOUT A BOOK ON HAND.
44
ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
SEPTEMBER 2021
http://www.ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM

Elephants And Tea - September 2021

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Elephants And Tea - September 2021 - Cover1
Elephants And Tea - September 2021 - Cover2
Elephants And Tea - September 2021 - 1
Elephants And Tea - September 2021 - Contents
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