Living with remission

I have titled this post ‘Living with, rather than in, remission’, as I feel that there is a big difference between the two. To explain that further, I have taken a dictionary definition of the word remission, in a cancer context.

‘A decrease in or disappearance of signs and symptoms of cancer. In partial remission, some, but not all, signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, although cancer still may be in the body’.

Over the years, I have spoken to many people about remission. Of course, it is a word that you are hoping to hear, as you go from diagnosis to prognosis to treatment. If things go as you hope, you may eventually hear those words, “Congratulations, you are now in remission”.But what does life have in store for you now, once you have reached this stage?

Well unfortunately, the shadow of cancer that has walked with you this far in your life, will always be a constant companion. There is no hiding place from it. Despite being told the above, you will still have hospital appointments on the calendar, even if they are less frequent. You will still need to be tested/scanned at various stages, to monitor your progress and check for any sign of relapse.
Cancer, can be like carrying an extra bag around with you. There are times when you can put it down, and even leave it somewhere, but you can never forget about it totally, and fairly soon, you will be reacquainted with it!

Is it possible, to leave the hospital, having been told that you are in complete remission, and carry on your life as if nothing has happened? Personally, I don’t think so. I know many people that are in that position, but it seems their lives are very different now. A lot of people don’t even mention their experience, and it is only their chosen group of friends, that are aware that anything has happened. That is their way of coping. It seems like they have shut the door, bolted it tight, and are doing their utmost to forget about the experience.

Others are quite the reverse. Like to let everyone know, maybe do some fundraising, and awareness raising, generally sharing their experience. Which ever camp you belong to, your life has changed forever.Things that seemed important before, just don’t have the same priority.One area where this can be very apparent is work.

Work is a very important component of life for most of us. It is always difficult to strike the right, work/life balance, at the best of times, but how do we view it once we have experienced cancer? Firstly there is the issue, of whether you are actually physically able enough to return to work. Sure we all need money to survive, so it can be extremely difficult to return to work, if maybe you have been off sick for a long time. Maybe lost your job because of your illness, and are looking to be re employed.Possibly having to change careers in later life as you cannot find the job you want.

In my own instance, I will never be able to return to what I was doing before my illness. I have been sick for more than five years now, and just don’t have the hunger to get back into the cut and thrust world of business. My life is now dedicated to helping others. I am in remission, but am suffering the severe after effects of my treatment. Of course I am happy to be in remission, it is a miracle in itself, but my original life is behind me. I have had to make a new one, but am still lucky to be alive

I liken my remission, to living in the shadow of a massive tree. At times, you see some sunlight, but more often than not, you are living in gloom. Being grateful for what you have, but also never sure how long you will have it. Finding it difficult to make a long term plan, just in case! Never quite knowing what the next call or letter will bring. Always having that feeling of uncertainty.

On the positive side, life is never really boring, as I never know, what is going to occur, good or bad. There have been some fantastic highs as well as some very low spots. I am a very different person now, and at times, struggle living my new life.A part of me wants to go back to my old life, but the other part is glad that I found my new one. Whatever I really think, I have to live my life with remission, until something changes!


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