How To Protect Yourself From The Post-Chemo Blues (And Other Little Known Side-Effects of Cancer)

Have you ever experienced a let down after a large event in your life?  A wedding?  A party?  A holiday?  A landmark birthday?  A vacation?  A new baby?  An event for which you have been waiting, saving, planning for months…maybe years?  There’s a huge build up of excitement and fervor over this event.  You are completely invested.  Your family is invested.  Your friends are invested.  Your heart races in anticipation of this event.  You are running on adrenaline, moving so quickly and accomplishing so much in the months/weeks/days leading up to the event that you barely have or take time to breathe.

Everything builds to that event.

And then the day comes.

The event happens.

It’s over.

Silence.

Real life.

Business as usual.

If you are anything like me, the post-event quietude can be devastating.  Once an event is complete, I have nothing to look forward to.  Nothing to plan for.  Nothing to hang my hopes and my happiness on.  I have no direction and no focus and, most disconcertingly, I am left alone with…MYSELF.

The horror.

So here I am, one week after being informed that my cancer is officially in remission, and I am STRUGGLING.  Now don’t get me wrong, I may proclaim to love cancer, but I prefer it not inhabit my body.  The cancer journey, however, was a huge event in my life that received a lot of my time and attention.  And I was a changed person.  I allowed myself to focus on what needed to be done.  I was gentle with myself.  I didn’t push.  If I wanted a nap, I would nap.  I gave myself permission to decline or delegate work.  If I couldn’t keep a commitment, I knew others would understand.  And I knew I could forgive myself for making that decision.

And best of all (at least for this girl), I had a mental vacation from obsession with food.

I have struggled with food my entire life.  I am a compulsive overeater and a binger.  In the last 4 years, I found myself some recovery and began to foster a healthier relationship with food.

But when the cancer treatment began, and nausea and other side effects dictated what food I could or could not eat, I allowed myself a reprieve from vigilance over my food choices.  And it was the right thing to do at the time.  I needed to listen to my body and nourish myself as best I could.  But I allowed the numbers that appeared on the scale to begin to play with my mind.  I would be weighed once or twice a week and because I seemed to lose (or not gain) weight each time I visited the doctor, I decided all was well.  As if the number on the scale was ever a proper indication of a healthy relationship with food.   It never has been and never will be.  At my skinniest (124 lbs on the day of my wedding to my first husband), I was obsessed; restricting entire food groups and allowing myself to binge on the weekends on piles of sugary snacks.

I worked very hard over the years to create a balanced meal plan that nourishes and sustains me and protects me from obsessive food thoughts and behaviors.  And I have worked very hard to accept that my body has found a happy home 10-15 pounds heavier than my brain would prefer it to be.

But here I am now, ten weeks post-chemo, back in the grips of food-obsession and watching the numbers on the scale creep higher and higher.  It’s been an emotional week for me.

I write this to tell you all that just like anything in life, cancer is simply one of many possible life events; an event that we can become obsessed with and allow to take over our lives.  And if we aren’t vigilant about creating mental and spiritual balance around us before during and after this event, we could be left on the other side feeling empty and less than.

Why did it take a cancer diagnosis for me to allow myself a break?  To be gentle with myself?  To forgive myself for not wanting to do something or go somewhere?  Now that life is heading back to “business as usual,” I find myself resisting the urge to push myself harder and criticize myself more.  “No more excuses, girl, back to work!”

This line of thinking is not okay.  I know it.  But I also know that this is not the authentic me.  This is the me that is created from a mind saddled by addiction.  My unhealthy food behaviors creep in and the negative, controlling, critical, impatient Tiffany begins to overshadow the happy, joyous, relaxed and free-spirited Tiffany.

My mind and spirit are trying to find equilibrium again after being pitched so high and so low for so many months.  So I pledge to be as kind and as gentle and as forgiving with myself now as I was in the midst of treatment.  As all of us should be to ourselves, every day of every week.  We are each doing the very best we can with all that we have been given today.  And we should be PROUD of that.

And perhaps most importantly, if we hang our hopes and our happiness on anything in life (event, person, place, thing), we are setting ourselves up for disappointment, depression and resentment. Happiness is an inside job. And you are the only qualified employee.

Has anyone else experienced the post-illness blues?  How about the post-wedding depression?  Or any other PLED (Post Life Event Disorder)?  How are you working on balancing life NOW to prepare for the next life event?   Because it’s coming.  I guarantee it.

7 thoughts on “How To Protect Yourself From The Post-Chemo Blues (And Other Little Known Side-Effects of Cancer)

  1. Whoo Hoo. honesty becomes you. Now you have let go and you’ll now see how much pwoer it gives you!

  2. Thanks again for your words of experience and wisdom that relate to us all! Life is such a journey of healing and growing! I look forward to seeing you in person very soon!

  3. Admiration does not say it all. Sometimes I think that I don’t look far enough ahead. Too busy with life? Maybe not all good.

  4. Frank Staropoli

    As always, refreshingly rich. See you in a couple of weeks!

  5. When I am finding my way out of a life event I repeat to myself “Able, Beautiful, Content” until it starts sinking in. Sometimes I forget to do it but it always seems to work like a charm! Love all your posts!

  6. WOW! So glad you were able to share this on your blog. Every time you write about your experiences, you encourage us to look at our own lives. My anxiety is tied to the upcoming event and after, all the things I wish I had done correctly. Makes me HATE events! The incredible things I have missed due to a migraine, given to myself. Good luck to us all in finding our balance!! Love you!

  7. AllnI can say is, I can relate, had a similar experience

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