On July 15, 2019, I celebrated my third Cancerversary (a special word in the cancer world to celebrate another year of being cancer-free). It reflects the day that I finished chemo, weekly doctor appointments and that safety net of support. Not a day goes by that I am not thankful to be alive, so I celebrate that day and daily, I work to get over the trauma of cancer. 

As I reflect, I think of the many amazing people I have met along the way-so many loved ones wanting to survive as much as the other, but each succumbed to the disease. This creates survivors’ guilt, which affects all cancer patients. 

As I journal about these events, I realize that these feelings get worse as a milestone starts to peak. I knew with triple negative that if I could hit my 3-year milestone that my rate of survival would go up, but I still have two more years to go before I can truly breathe. In fact, my anxiety got so bad this time I went to a therapist who told me it was post-traumatic stress syndrome. This time, my PTSD and anxiety got worse because the stress of the cancer comes back when you are facing another health issue. You always wonder if that cancer cell that attacked you before will explode again. You are at war with your own body, mind and spirit. For me this is the hardest. 

 Being a survivor of cancer is such an in-between place. I want to be extremely happy as I know my second chance at life is a complete gift from God. But I still mourn the loss of friends. 

My therapist helps me to acknowledge my guilt and cope with feelings I tend to ignore. I write because it helps me sort through thoughts that I cannot tell family and friends. It keeps me out of a dark place I can fall into if I do not express how I feel in the moment. I am learning how to grieve those whom I have lost to cancer. Giving back to my cancer community helps tremendously to honor my friends who are no longer here.

Lastly, I am trying to be kind to myself. This is the biggest process of all: when your body does not look the same because of scars and weight gain, even though you have done everything possible to cover the scars or lose the weight. When your aches and pains cause you to stay in bed, but you just don’t understand why. When you are in that low place try to remember the trauma is not just in your mind, but in your body, in your spirit and you are still healing. Sit with the discomfort, but seek out help if it should start to overtake you. 

While we often seek answers to questions, there are no real answers to why one survives cancer and one does not. Learning to acknowledge this is the harsh reality that sometimes life with cancer does not make sense. The daily process is to live with gratitude that you are alive and to embrace the gift you have been given. 

Shay Moraga is E-RYT500, Triple Negative Breast Cancer Survivor, each week teaching Yoga for Cancer Caretakers and Survivors locally at Eisenhower’s Lucy Curci Center. Contact Shay at [email protected], or reach out to her on social media at Namaste with Shay.

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