Ghost of Cancer – guest post

New blogger from Australia!  “Breast cancer dictated that 2010 was a blur of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other hellish challenges. This year is all about learning to live mindfully and passionately through the next phase. I’m happy to help anyone starting out on their journey.”

~ Keep Going! Blogging Breast Cancer

The Ghost of the Dreaded C

A lot of women I speak to who have had early breast cancer believe the worst part is waiting for results; the time where you’re in limbo aka the ‘ not knowing ‘.  Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can google the hell out of your diagnosis and come to some sort of acceptance. I found the next step was bracing myself for treatment, which I found all encompassing and kind of empowering.

Now that I’m done with treatment, it feels like I’ve been thrust back into limbo land. Permanently. I have back pain at the end of most days, and wonder sometimes if it could be metastasis. I’ve been dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome lately which has given me flashbacks of the murky time that lead up to my diagnosis. Before the first lump was felt, sore hands featured on my long list of ‘niggles’ to ask my doctor about.

Then there are the factors I like to think I can control. Each time I indulge in something non-organic I wonder if I’m doing myself a disservice. I’ve been craving New York cheesecake, but as soon as I have a bite I worry about the sugar… like me, cancer loves sugar. I stress out about stressing out and not exercising or meditating enough. I shudder every time yet another cancer story is featured on TV or in the paper.

It seems everything is a trigger. Today was the anniversary of the death of my husband’s grandmother. I wanted to visit the cemetery but starting fretting about all the graves of ‘young people’. I can never resist reading them. I then have this strange sensation of being very close and far from these people I don’t even know. I’m alive, and feel like I will be for a long time, but there’s also the feeling that I’m almost with them. Conclusion: No visiting the cemetery for a while.

I’m strangely happier than I’ve been for a long time and there’s a palpable sense of freedom and excitement. Then there’s this small layer of dread that lives somewhere beneath the surface. It feels like I’m living with an omnipresent ghost. I keep finding ways to ignore it, only to have it appear again when I least expect it. I wonder if this anxiety lasts forever? Does anyone else out there feel the same? A very wise friend mentioned post-traumatic stress disorder, which lit a bulb in my head, and provided something my beautiful friends have given me all through this journey – good old fashioned hope.


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.

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