Having Hard Days After Surviving Cancer

Every so often I have a day when I’m inexplicably sad. Now that I am seven years out of having cancer, they definitely don’t come as often as they used to, but I still have them sometimes. It doesn’t usually stem from my health history at this point, but it somehow always comes back to it.

I hate “what ifs,” but when I’m feeling down about relationships or job stuff it’s easy to get angry again at the big C. What if I hadn’t gotten sick? What if I didn’t have to be in-patient for most of a year? Would I have a big career now? Would I be in a relationship or at least not scared of them? Would I not have gained so much weight and had trouble losing it? Would I not have had to let friends go by seeing the real side of them?

These are the “what ifs” that cycle through my head — not as frequently anymore — but they’re still there when I least expect them. They happen when I find myself slipping and comparing myself to others who didn’t have cancer. It’s a cycle because I know there’s nothing I can do to change the past and I hate looking back. I have spent a long time accepting it and trying to look forward. Then I just get angry with myself for feeling this way and the cycle begins.

Besides the “what ifs,” there are the sure things that are even harder to deal with, like my self-esteem I had to build up from the floor after losing my hair and gaining weight. The things I’ve worked so hard on, yet I still struggle with daily. It is easy to get frustrated when I am feeling sad, even though I know I have come so far. In those times, I need to actually look back so I can see proof of how far I have come. Doctor’s appointments can stir up these feelings, too — even finding the time for these appointments does it.

In the past, these feelings of sadness or hopelessness were scary and overwhelming, and I felt like I was drowning. I now know those feelings pass and I will be feeling grateful again the next day. But it sucks being in it and being sad. I don’t want to downplay my feelings because it took years and a lot of work (and some medicine) to get there.

It’s especially difficult and hard to explain why I am sad. I usually feel guilty when I’m having a bad day because I feel like I’m obligated to always be happy because I survived while others didn’t. I feel I am supposed to appreciate the little things, which I usually do, but some days I just can’t. I want to have the freedom to have my hard days as much as anyone else. Surrounding myself with people who give me that permission has helped a great deal.

This story was originally published on I Had Cancer

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