In my prior post “Vacation Period?” Seriously…, I described the traumatic period between my last radiation treatment and my follow-up MRI. Well, the day of reckoning had come – the MRI results were in. ALL CLEAR! No sign of cancer!
Without a doubt, I was indescribably relieved. I cried tears of overwhelming joy. That metaphorical tons of bricks weighing on my shoulders immediately lifted. It was almost surreal.
Once my oncologist sat down with me celebrating the incredible news, we got to another topic… the emotional turmoil of those weeks leading up the MRI. She knew full-well what I had been going through, thanks to multiple calls to her office. Even with the clear MRI, she knew I needed help to process all of this. So, she recommended several things, including seeing a therapist, as well as a psychiatrist for an evaluation to determine if I
needed medication to ease the anxiety that had overcome me during that period of time.
I had never been in therapy. I was of the strong opinion that here in the U.S., we were over-medicating ourselves with antidepressants and drugs of all sorts. I’ll be honest – I was against it all. However, she felt that it was almost a “prescription” to seek out professional help within the hospital’s incredible counseling center. So, because I literally trusted her and all of my doctors with my life, with much hesitation, I agreed.
Additionally, she suggested reaching out to the hospital’s social worker, who specifically dealt with neurology patients and particularly brain cancer patients. I had an easier time agreeing to that idea. It seemed a lot less clinical. As it turns out, the social worker pointed me to some really great cancer organizations, particularly First Descents (http://firstdescents.org/).
During the dark period, it also hadn’t helped that I had been on a seizure medication known to have terrible side effects regarding anxiety/depression in some patients. So, with the clear MRI, my seizure doctor was comfortable taking me off that medication and replacing it with another drug. Changing that medication made a world of difference for my mental state.
Going back to the time period between my surgery and throughout my radiation period (approximately 6 months after my inital diagosis), I had actually been extremely positive and strong. I had become heavily involved in the National Brain Tumor Society (www.braintumor.org). I had also just signed-up for a post-treatment support group through CancerCare (http://www.cancercare.org/). So, I will say I was fortunate that the dark period only truly lasted those several weeks before the MRI. Now, with the news the MRI was clear, boy, did my whole outlook change! I went back, almost immediately, to that fighter/survivor, who people had truly been amazed by. People had called me an “inspiration” (discussed in my post https://braincancerbabe.com/2016/04/19/being-an-inspiration/) and yeah, I felt that way again.
So, life began to quickly normalize again. I felt happy. I felt strong. I felt positive. I truly felt that everything was going to be okay. Of course, the fear of a recurrence remained in the back of my mind, but it didn’t dominate my thoughts. I was meeting so many other survivors and realizing, “Hey. I’m not alone in all of this. Other people actually felt the same way I did! This was NOT a death sentence” I went back to work, part-time. Although, I still hated my job and actually regret going back so soon. I did see the therapist and set up a regular schedule of appointments. The psychiatrist, thankfully, deemed that I did not need antidepressants. Life felt good again. It felt really, really good.
While yes, life did normalize, it was indeed my “new normal.” I felt comfortable with the fact that cancer had changed my whole world, but it wasn’t all for the worse. I truly embraced a new perspective on life, namely, “Live every minute of every day like it’s your last! Appreciate everything you have!”
I saw how lucky I was to have come out of all of this with very, very few side effects. I was doing pretty much everything I had been doing before cancer entered my world. I mean, seriously – I had had brain cancer and brain surgery! Yet, here I was, pretty much the same girl I had been. I truly recognized what an amazing support system I had. The kindness, concern and love from even strangers overwhelmed me. Man, was I loved!
I continued to be monitored very closely by my neurology team. At every visit, they were beyond thrilled that the dark days were behind me (which I now see as a very brief period of time in the grand scheme of things). They loved seeing that girl they had first met, who showed what a fighter she was and how she continued to embrace life so much.
I was kickin’ ass.
However, things did change in early 2015. So, that will lead to my next post and specifically, Round 2 of the cancer chaos.