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Surviving Cancer: My Life’s Retrospective

by Eve SotiriadouSurvivor, Metastatic Thyroid CancerDecember 21, 2021View more posts from Eve Sotiriadou

Four years have passed since my initial cancer diagnosis, and reflecting back on that Halloween evening of 2017 does not get any easier. I still remember the clothes I was wearing and the pink eyeshadow that made me feel like a million bucks as I walked into the endocrinology department at the local hospital.

My partner was waiting for me in the hallway as I was waiting to chat with my doctor for what I thought would be a quick conversation about my thyroid medication. Needless to say, that was not the case. 

Instead, I vividly remember this beautiful blonde intern walking in with a big smile, kindly breaking the news. I was confused and unsure of what she was trying to say at first. I felt tears washing down my cheeks as I asked her about the treatment plan they were considering. As she left the room for a few seconds, I remember texting my partner, “I have cancer.” 

I deeply regretted it afterwards as his response was chaotic, but a deep sense of shame overtook me, and I was unable to look him or anyone else in the eyes and tell them that I am a cancer patient. It is peculiar, but suddenly, I felt ashamed and contagious. As if I was at fault for getting cancer ten days after my nineteenth birthday. 

That evening was one of the hardest of my life, as I had to return home and tell my mom that I had cancer. I remember giving her and my twin sister the doctor’s formal diagnosis document. They desperately tried to interpret every word on the paper to conclude that it was not cancer. Years of denial followed on my mom’s behalf, and eventually, roughly three or four years later, she was able to publicly admit that her child did indeed have cancer.

Four years later, I am relieved to identify as a cancer survivor, yet cancer continues to impact me in so many ways. Initially, I was under the impression that once I beat cancer, I would be able to go back to my old life, but, of course, that was not the case. The old Eve and her given reality were gone. People walked out of my life while I was hurt physically and emotionally, while others, such as my family, stood by my side even when I was unbearable to handle. 

Anger took over me, and I became bitter and resentful for the next couple of years. It took years of therapy through CancerCare and tons of antidepressants to finally admit to myself and my therapist that “cancer no longer dictates my life.” It certainly influences it, but it no longer dictates it. I am no longer missing out on fun opportunities because I have a doctor’s appointment or feel too weak to be outdoors.

I never thought emotional healing was possible. There are days when I do not believe that to the present day. Nights like a few days ago where I cry myself hysterically to sleep as I reflect upon everything I have lost due to cancer. But, I have gained so much more as well. Cancer might have weakened my body, but it allowed me to evolve mentally and spiritually. 

I have come to adopt the “no sugar coating” policy as life is too short to candy-coat things for others who might drop you in a second, just like my so-called “people” did when I needed them the most. I have come to recognize the importance of addressing my needs first (even if I struggle sometimes), and I developed a passion for my work as I try to take up as many tasks as possible, because damn, did I lose so much time lying on a bed sick and exhausted on every possible level. 

When my therapist asked me if cancer had given me the opportunity to reflect on my former choices and make more informed decisions, I became upset and aggressive towards her. How could she ever imply that cancer could have brought positive changes in my life? It did not, and that is definitely not what my therapist was trying to suggest. 

However, it helped me sort out my life, and, as a dear friend of mine says, “Take the garbage out.” Whether that means letting people walk away without asking why or changing my mentality to address my needs first and foremost, cancer changed me as a person profoundly. There are days when I struggle to see how I have evolved for the best, but as I look back to my old self, I am proud to say that I like my current self so much more! 

I have worked so hard to be able to say out loud that bloody cancer does not dictate my life anymore, and I am taking it a step at a time. For the most part, life is too damn painful, but don’t we all suck it up and keep going? At least I know; I fought my hardest to beat cancer physically and overcome the emotional damage it has caused me! And I am still fighting every day to learn how to forgive myself and love my body that lost four body organs in three years. In the words of April Green, “Your body is not an enemy, it is not a battleground — it is your home.”

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