I just had a conversation with someone yesterday about how cancer affects your life even after you get the all clear from the doctors. I really envy those who finish treatment, find there is No Evidence of Disease (NED), they go right back to their previous jobs and seem to never miss a beat. They somehow appear to never think about it. Their physical and mental selves seem to recover and it's business as usual. I can tell you it's not the case with many Head and Neck Cancer survivors. Many of us are consumed by the anxiety that a late stage cancer diagnosis brings. Unfortunately, these types of cancer are most often discovered at Stage 3 or later.
I thought maybe I was just weaker than the average bear but lately I've been seeing more evidence that I'm really far from alone in my struggle. According to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer have four times the rate of suicide than the general public. (You can read more about these findings here.) While I don't have data on the suicide rate of survivors of other types of cancer, I imagine that any late stage diagnosis would bring a high rate with it.
Another thing I've been seeing more of is talk about cancer survivors and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I guess fighting for your life is the same no matter where the threat comes from. For so many people, the battle is over but the war is far from won. This article from thebreastcancersite.com mentions how a simple body ache can send a cancer survivor into a downward spiral to the darkest recesses of your mind. That's exactly how it happens. And it doesn't really matter how many times you go to the doctor to find it's nothing. You still worry every single time.
Anxiety, depression, emotional outbursts, worrying about the future, being unable to live in the moment without worrying that something bad will happen just when everything is going well, inability to rest for fear of wasting time you assume you don't have, sleep disorders, concentration and memory problems. Sometimes you look great on the surface. It's what lies beneath that is difficult to manage.