June is National Cancer Survivors Month, a celebration of the more than 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States. Every cancer survivor’s experience is unique, with different challenges, triumphs, setbacks, and stories.
Surviving cancer is often an opportunity to live with a renewed sense of purpose and pursue goals that were put on hold. Surviving cancer often serves as motivation to try new activities, visit new places, and build or repair relationships.
But then last year, a once-in-a-century pandemic came along and brought everything to a screeching halt.
For many, one of the most difficult things about the COVID-19 pandemic is the feeling that time has been stolen. We’ve all been robbed of a year of our life. This applies to people of all ages from all walks of life, but especially to cancer survivors who are especially sensitive to how precious every day can be.
Cancer survivors, even those who have had a clean bill of health for years, often fear that cancer will return. Having to live in isolation or, at the very least, having activities severely limited for many months, or even a year or more, is difficult to swallow.
For a long period, you could not gain the peace of mind that comes with an in-person appointment or test. The resources traditionally available to patients with cancer and cancer survivors were not accessible for months.
Every event was affected in some way by the coronavirus, including birthday parties, milestone anniversaries, weddings, graduations, holiday gatherings, vacations, and even end-of-life rituals. Special events that would have had extra meaning and significance for cancer survivors were scaled back, moved to a virtual format, postponed, or cancelled.
Something as simple as dinner with a loved one was deemed a high-risk activity. If you wanted to visit an elderly relative, you had to speak by phone, separated by a window. The vacation you had been putting off has now been delayed almost indefinitely. Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you still have to be careful, and masks may not be going away anytime soon.
As a cancer survivor, you have every reason to be sad, angry, and bitter. Processing these emotions under such extreme circumstances, however, isn’t easy. Just as receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing cancer treatment are difficult, the inability to celebrate survivorship fully can be frustrating.
If you’re struggling to process the time that has been lost to COVID-19, consider speaking to a therapist. Expressing your emotions and identifying the underlying causes of those feelings can help you rid yourself of negative attitudes, put the past in the past, and make the most of your time moving forward.
Talk to your doctor about what activities you may be able to enjoy today that were considered high-risk 6 months ago. You’ll have many more options during the summer, so take advantage of the weather while vaccine distribution continues.
Remember, it’s okay to be unhappy about the time that has been taken from you during the coronavirus pandemic, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it.
Let’s celebrate National Cancer Survivors Month by getting back to living.