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What Was Not Unseen

by Natalie ShoulterSurvivor, Breast CancerApril 12, 2023View more posts from Natalie Shoulter

The Unseen Challenges of Survivorship: What Was Not Unseen

When I saw this prompt I thought, “No problem. This will be easy!” Over time I found myself jotting things down. Like how I had absolutely no energy or motivation, how excruciating my pain can really be after a long day, or how the mere thought of breast cancer returning is like being trapped in a never-ending game of Russian roulette. I found myself writing about all the guilt I felt as a survivor. How sad my heart was to have had to put my daughter, husband, and immediate family through such a heartbreaking experience over the past seven years.

The more I wrote the more I realized how I was just making a long list of complaints and fears. But why? I’m here. I’m alive. So I sat on that thought and with that awareness, I started again: the unseen challenges of survivorship.

Every heart that ached and broke at the news of my cancer diagnosis was not unseen but what was unseen is the strong loving bonds that grew from my chemo chair to theirs, the joy of passing crayons back and forth as we colored our hearts out like we were kids again.

Something not unseen was the long days and sleepless nights, but what was unseen were the giggles in the night, the short but well-worth-it snuggles in between the steroid-induced, pre-menopausal hot flashes and all the extra good night kisses.

What was not unseen was the lack of motivation and strength to even get out of bed. But what was unseen were the bedroom board games, the silly and funny little Snapchat video filters and movie marathons that left us with lasting memories, like remembering time was frozen in that moment.

What was not unseen was the guilt. Guilt that eats you slowly until there is nothing left, that little voice in one’s mind that says, “You definitely were not worthy of surviving over so and so.” This voice visibility steals every second of joy, self-love, and gratitude.

But what was unseen was a spark, a spark that grew into a flame growing larger with each day that passed. A flame so big and thick with smoke that it burned and smothered that voice! From the ashes arose a phenix! Eager, strong-willed, passionate, noble, wiser, and changed.

It’s OK to have bad days. Heck it’s OK to have a bad week. You hear the phrase, “It will get easier,” but I’ve learned that it will always get harder before it gets easier. An unseen challenge.

Every moment of every single day we are faced with choices or questions, and how we decide to face those choices can determine a person’s whole mindset, and so now I ask again. What are the unseen challenges of survivorship?

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