I have this very vivid memory of me lying on the cold living room floor. I am in tears, desperate for treatments to end.
My only thought: I cannot start this chemotherapy cycle again.
I can remember that the week following my Friday chemotherapy treatment was psychologically taxing.
I often ended up on the floor, physically and mentally exhausted. In fact, I still wonder how I made it through twelve such weeks over the span of my six months of treatment.
The image I describe above remains crystal-clear in my mind.
However, I cannot recall the events or the details of what comes before and after those crystal-clear moments. Others may offer bits and pieces of information, but my memories remain blank.
I find it difficult to remember my cancer experience. The bulk of it, that is everything that happened before last spring’s cancer scare, is often blurred in my mind.
For that, others are often correcting my perception of events. I trust them with my memories and rely on their recollections to help me understand my experience. I am truly thankful for this support.
Yet, I am left helpless and, in many ways, confused.
When others ask me what I am most scared of, the truthful answer is forgetting.
I have held my cancer experience near to ensure it remains a driving force in my life. However, forgetting - a reality bound to happen over time - is a terrifying idea.
Still, I had assumed until now, that I had years of remembering my cancer experience before pieces began fleeting.
I believed I still had ample time to document the experience that I swore I would never forget.
That is, until I realized that the memories I thought were mine, had, in fact, never been in my possession.
I don’t remember the first words I said after being diagnosed. I don’t remember the 2nd, 3rd and 4th chemotherapy treatment. I don’t remember who I called first when my recurrence was announced.
To be honest, I never remembered these things.
There is little, when I consider my cancer experience as a whole, that I know I remember. There are many more aspects that I understand that I don’t recall.
What I don’t know that I don’t remember, well, that is significant.
Why am I so scared of forgetting?
Aren’t most of these memories painful and frightening?
Isn’t this new post-active cancer life what I should be concentrating on?
These questions don’t have simple answers. But the clearest aspect comes down to my memories giving me the strength to face what might come.
I am terribly scared of forgetting because, I, much like every other cancer thriver, am afraid of cancer returning.
The thought of a recurrence or a new diagnosis is paralyzing.
What brings me comfort is knowing that I have thrived throughout my cancer experience thus far. As such, I am capable of thriving in my cancer life for as long as life requires me to.
But forgetting would mean starting back at zero.
My memories, those that are mine, and the many more that others keep safe for me, allow me the peace of mind to truly know that I am capable.
They reinforce the idea that I am a cancer thriver. With that, I try to remember—the good, the bad and the terrible of cancer.