The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

Sorry, I Can’t Talk Right Now, I’m Grieving…

by Sheena Harris-WilliamsPatient, Neuroendocrine CancerNovember 4, 2021View more posts from Sheena Harris-Williams

On June 2nd, 2020, I received my cancer diagnosis. I have stage IV, high grade pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. From that day on it was time to say goodbye to my old life, and start my new life with a cancer I had never even heard of. 

One year prior to my cancer diagnosis, I was sitting in my priest’s office with my fiancé picking out a date for our wedding. The year prior to that I was gearing up for the opening day of my business. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my life was pretty good. I had a decent job. I was working towards financial independence by opening my own business. I had the best family in the world. I had my then fiancé, now husband who loved and adored me. And I still have all of these people and things in my life… but now I have cancer. 

So here I am, now an AYA cancer patient fighting for my life. I’ve been in this fight for well over a year now, but I’m still mourning and grieving my old life. I miss her. I miss the young, vibrant newlywed I once was. I miss being carefree and being able to pick up and go without having to look at a calendar. I hate having to schedule things around my sickness and treatment days. I hate the anticipation of knowing I will be incapacitated for days while the rest of the world moves on without me. I spend my days recovering from treatment. By the time I start feeling “normal” again, it’s time to start gearing up for the next round of treatment. It’s a never-ending cycle.

It’s triggering to see everyone around you living the life you once had planned for yourself. I’m not coming from a place of jealousy. It’s about coming to terms with the fact that it’ll never be my life. And it’s been challenging. 

Being an AYA cancer patient sucks! Not only for the obvious reasons. But because you’re AYA. You have a whole life ahead of you. Those in your close circle are people your age, and you’re all going through similar experiences. School, work, dating, sex, marriage, parenting, etc. Now add cancer on top of that. As if life couldn’t get anymore complicated, you now have cancer to deal with. And to make it even worse, nobody truly understands what you are going through. It’s a lonely place to be. 

This has been the most physically and mentally draining year and a half of my life. I just want to be happy again. Genuinely happy. I’ve learned, through my diagnosis, that genuine happiness shouldn’t be taken for granted. I’ve always felt incredibly fortunate to have the support system I’ve had throughout the various stages of my life. I’m grateful for my incredible husband and family. I’m grateful for the amazing friends I’ve made. And I’m proud of my life accomplishments. All these things are wonderful and should be cherished to no end. But I’m not happy. Cancer somehow managed to suck the happiness out of my life. To me, it’s “I’m happy for [fill in the blank] BUT I have cancer.” Cancer has negated all the good in my life. There are times when I smile and feel great. But I want it to last despite my diagnosis. 

The only thing that’s helped me somewhat achieve a sense of happiness is unplugging from the world. I’ve been spending time alone, checking in with myself. Allowing myself to feel whatever I’m feeling at the time. I dedicate this time to doing things I like to help calm my mind and give me a sense of inner peace. I deactivate my social media and avoid my phone. I can’t allow outside forces in, because sometimes it makes me feel even worse. I challenge all of you to take some time to understand and process your feelings. Don’t waive them off. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. It’s the only way you will learn to deal with your new life.

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