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Survivorship is Hard

by Jennifer AnandSurvivor, Hodgkin’s LymphomaApril 24, 2024View more posts from Jennifer Anand

Survivorship is hard. It never goes away. You always live a bit on the edge, wondering what will happen next. Or even if you’re going to make it through the day. I’m by myself. Live by myself, drive by myself, flying solo (to the shock of the friendly Costco lady today). If I didn’t respond to any messages and wasn’t online for 24 hours my coworkers Daniel and Savannah would check in on me. But that’s a long time. 

When I first moved to Boston, I slipped on ice and severely bruised my tailbone. I made my way back upstairs, flopped onto a couch, and remained there as much as possible due to the pain. I skipped a ton of meals and hydration, only because of the painful effort to move from the couch and walk to the kitchen. One day I walked up to the third floor and managed to slip down a few of those as well. I lay stunned at the bottom for a few moments and vowed to always keep my phone on me if I were to mount those treacherous stairs again. 

One of my classes is back for its second level, and I was chilling with a student I connected with in the first level. Around him, I could consciously feel myself relax and let loose. I felt freer and happier and less stressed. Through some conversations and internal analysis, it clicked why I felt that way. He was a trained EMS professional. I started thinking through the times here in Boston when I’ve felt most carefree. Each of those has involved hanging out with an individual trained in EMS/rescue/medical things. I think my subconscious relaxes ever so slightly around these “safe people.” I’m not worried about my sugar going low, or my blood pressure spiking, or breaking out in an unexplained cold sweat, or having a seizure. Living by myself I carry the weight and stress of always looking out for myself. There is no reprieve. No one to shoulder the burden with me. So having these few days with someone who can shoulder the burden with me is amazing. 

Survivorship is a heavy, heavy burden. The weight of physical pain, PTSD, the guilt of being alive, and the mental fortitude it takes to sometimes just get out of bed in the morning can be crushing. Surround us and support us. As simple as helping complete chores or providing a meal. I’m grateful to Eduardo who always packs up his restaurant leftovers for me, just so I have some meals that I won’t have to cook. And Sav for always picking me up for events. And Heidi who lets me crash the couch. And Hannah who packs me servings of fruit. Small things. Big impact. 

So if you’re a cancer muggle reading this, educate yourself, please. Support us. Know what could go wrong and how you can help us. Ask us to tell you the warning signs that we’re headed toward an emergency. Give us the chance to breathe. 

And if you’re a cancer peep, learn to accept the help. It’s not in my nature, either. I’m a strong, independent woman. And it’s hard for me to accept help. But we were built for community. And we can’t survive as an island. 

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