After being in treatment with chemotherapy and two operations it was about time to recover! For the last one and a half years I took a lot of time and effort to recover, heal and stay healthy and free of cancer. All in all I can say that it took more than one year to really recover from the treatment. Since this summer (2017) I really feel mostly fit again and I have been using this energy a lot for this blog! In this and the following articles in this category I want to share with you what happened after my treatment and also what I did to become really healthy again!
The first months post-chemo
Frankly, after getting poisoned for almost a year, I felt quite weak. At the same time I remember feeling almost like a superhero during the first weeks after treatment. I had the feeling that I could achieve and do anything I wanted. After completing the high-dose chemotherapy I returned to my original hospital for the post-chemo CAT Scan. In April and June I was scanned to see how the tumours in my abdominal and chest area have developed. The scans showed that the tumours in my abdominal area were gone completely and those in the chest area have shrunk more than half. Together with the fact that the tumour markers have been zero for the last six months I became “just” another patient in follow-up care. Since then, I go to the hospital every three months to check my blood and to have either a CAT-Scan or an ultrasound examination.
I remember that there were also negative and ambivalent feelings present within me. As I said, despite the huge dose of therapy I got, there were still some rests of tumours showing up in the scans that shouldn’t be there “normally”. So I asked myself as well if those enlarged lymph nodes could mean that the cancer might returns and that I am not 100% done/save yet. At the same time I felt tired of the tensions and anxieties around waiting for such test results. Basically I just thought that, what it means is that I need to keep following my way of self care, mindfulness and connecting to all sorts of resources.
During my illness, there was a point where I was thinking a lot about death and dying. I will also write an article about that more in detail at a later point. I was thinking for example: If I just have this much time to live any more, then I want to enjoy the time I got, as much as possible. That meant to me: spending quality time with people, who I love, being kind to myself and enjoy the present moment.
Then I was thinking how bizarre this thought is. Why should I only live in this way, if I knew that I had just some couple of months to live? Why shouldn’t I live in this conscious and mindful way — focusing on the small wonders and gifts and being happy in the present moment — also if I still got 60 or 70 years to live? This thought was kind of enlightening for me. I thought to myself: If the cancer returns or not won’t really effect the way I live my life. In either case I want to enjoy the time I got the best I can and show gratitude for all the beautiful moments and small wonders.
So with this spirit I started the next phase in my life that I retrospectively call “rehabilitation phase”.
From April 2016 to march 2016 I spent more than 120 days in hospital. So that was almost a third of the year! It was my reality to go to the hospital at least once in three weeks to get all sorts of parameters controlled. So I needed some time to get used to normal life again. Get used to not knowing how high my white blood cells or tumour markers are for six or eight weeks straight! Before I got cancer I never thought about how high my white or red blood cells were. So it was about time to recover from hospitalisation and to live my life independently again!
From the end of may to the middle of June in went on a three-week oncological rehab to a rural area near the Austrian-Hungarian border. A rehab program is a funny but also a kind of boring matter. It is actually a bit like in hospital, with a lot of rules and processes. For example, you get a fix seat at a table for your meals. Every day you undergo a set of treatments and you are encouraged to do a sports program. So I went on cardio machines, went swimming, I got massages, I did handicraft work and participated in relaxation and therapy groups and got counselling sessions. Actually I did some things I am also writing about here on this blog. During many activities I thought: “Mm actually I have been working with this for months already” or “I read a book about that” and so on and so forth. That was also encouraging me. It was also great to see many people who are living healthy and normal lives after their cancer treatment. Of course there have been also some very interesting and inspiring encounters.
But after al this time I thought that it’s enough now. I have lived outside of my home and was surrounded by cancer patients long enough. I was ready and curious to find out what my life and my future will hold for me.
Time to celebrate — July 2016
My advice for all people with and without cancer! Sometimes you just got to celebrate life! I don’t know if it was some effect of the chemotherapy on my brain but during the last two cycles of the high dose chemotherapy I became quite creative. During the second cycle I once awakened in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep any more. I had a lot of ideas how I could put together a big party so that I can celebrate the closing of this life experience together with my friends and all the people who were accompanying me. So I sat down at three in the middle of the night and wrote a concept for a party as well as a speech, that I gave — with just slight changes — during the party on July 1st.
We did this party in an alternative-queer bar, where I used to go out often. One of the things that make me feel so rich, is that there are so many beautiful and loving people in my life. And they are all so talented and gifted in various ways. One of them, Emrah used to sing in a very professional choir and another one, Christa is a professional dancer. So we developed a performance together, that was the “midnight special” so to say. During my treatment there was a song, that was very important to me and that I still love a lot. It is called supersymmetry by the famous Canadian band Arcade Fire. The first part of the song is with vocals and the second part is just music. So I sang the song together with Emrah and then danced a little choreography with Christa.
That was very empowering. It was such a great experience to be surrounded by people that love me and that I love, to try something new and express myself creatively. It was so much fun also to develop the choreography and the ideas just kept popping up. The song is so soft and it feels to me as if a warm summer rain is gently caressing the body. It expressed a lot of what I learned through my journey of sickness and healing. We tried to express these emotions and spirit through the performance. That was just amazing, because there was no pressure for it to be beautiful or especially well done, but it was about to create a certain vibe and energy together with the audience. It was the first time in my life that I experienced that creative expression is indeed healing and that I have a lot of creativity inside of me that wants to be expressed. It is very healing and I can just recommend expressing yourself as well in a way that fits your personality!
I also gave a speech that incorporated some core reflections that are also present in this website. There were “proverbs to go“. The guests could take away some wise slogans that were important for me. We took photos with a Polaroid camera and guests could stick their pictures in a book and write something in it. Up to this day I really enjoy looking at this book and through all the other cards and letters I got. These letters and cards are like a treasure box, that I can open, when I feel down or when I am struggling.
I have to say that this party was more than just a party to me. It was also a sort of “Intervention”. What I mean by that is that I tried to create a common experience for people where they can feel the interconnectedness of us all and the healing potential that we all have inside of us. One of the most essential things that I have learned on my journey is that within all of us there is always love and connection present, just because we are part of this miracle called life. Even more beautiful it is when there are a lot of loving relations with other people in our lives. During my treatment I often felt so loved and connected to life, as I have never felt before when I was healthy. I can’t really remember feeling alone at all during the year I got treated. With this party I tried to find a way to express these feelings of connectedness, oneness and wholeness and share this insight with other people
After the party, it was time to go on some good holidays. These were also very rich in all sorts of experiences. I will share about those things and what happened in summer and autumn 2016 soon in another blog post!