It is a common question among cancer survivors: What happens after the storm?
Sandy Evancho was diagnosed with HER-2 positive stage 2 breast cancer just before Thanksgiving 2017 – a diagnosis made in the early stages thanks to 3D mammography imaging. After getting the shocking diagnosis at 55 years old, the roller coaster ride began, and the fight was on from day one.
Facing the unknown, the fear began, but she knew her faith must ride with her on each wave of the storm. “One of the hardest moments in my life was finding the words and the right time to tell my 2 sons, daughter, husband, parents, family, neighbors, and friends ‘I have cancer,’” she said.
The type of cancer was aggressive, calling for immediate action and intense chemotherapy. And as so many women do when facing a storm, she focused her full attention on surviving and coping — and to make sure her loved ones were protected from the path of destruction.
Sandy knew every storm runs its course – this too would pass.
It was not easy. She was very sick. She lost her hair. The process of undergoing chemotherapy, a mastectomy, and reconstructive surgery is never easy.
Thankfully, she made it. Every round, every scan, every storm – she came through. She remained positive throughout because of her faith.
The storm analogy is so appropriate, but Sandy knew she was stronger than the storm. There was a time to hunker down, to protect and survive. Now she is in the aftermath. It is the place all people fighting cancer want to be – on the other side of the mountain; but it still is not easy.
Now is the time to “clean up” as Sandy says. Once the fight is over — a new journey begins.
To deal with all of the emotional debris that cancer created. The physical and emotional healing is a day to day process.
But how does systemic healing occur?
There is not enough discussion about what happens post-cancer. We know after every storm, we must re-build. Why does it seem different with cancer?
A lot of survivors say moving forward can be difficult. There is a constant “ticker” of questions – many of which are anxiety inducing. Many survivors report an odd sensation of not being sure what to do beyond treatment. The plan of action is done. How do you handle what happens next while still trying to process what just happened.
We need to talk about this topic more — receiving a cancer diagnosis is far too common. Thankfully, surviving a cancer diagnosis is becoming increasingly common. So, for all of those amazing people who survived the storm—what is next?
Sandy is diving into her faith, and thankful to God for his healing power. She journals; she sits; she listens. She has learned it is okay to sit – to be quiet. She is also giving back. Giving of herself; giving to those who can benefit from her perspective. She is at peace.
Spending time with family, friends, her children and husband is a priority now. She has a new perspective on life. She could have never braved the storm without her “earth angels.” The support and encouragement provided through visits, cards, food, flowers and prayers kept her spirits high. She refers to her faith and the old poem, “Footprints.” She says she knew when she saw one set of footprints in the sand, it was then that He carried her.
It is 2020. We are all in a storm. Cancer swarms around us. But we are looking ahead with great optimism for a day when there is no cancer—we will have survived the storm. We will be on the other side—and we will be ready to move forward together.