Emotional Ups & Downs

I am not a crier.  Never was.  My sister is a crier. We can’t even mention the movie Up without her breaking in to tears for 30 min.  And just forget about mentioning any movie where a dog dies.  In fact, she is probably crying just reading these sentences! (I love you baby sister!).

But, not me.  I never cried at movies, cards or commercials.  In fact, I balked at those who did.  I considered people who were so sentimental and empathetic, weak.

I am not a crier.  Never was.  My sister is a crier. We can’t even mention the movie Up without her breaking in to tears for 30 min.  And just forget about mentioning any movie where a dog dies.  In fact, she is probably crying just reading these sentences! (I love you baby sister!).

Enter Cancer.

After caner I can’t watch any movie where anyone dies of cancer.  Not a mother  Not a child.  Not a dog.  In fact, I can’t watch movies where anyone dies, period.  It send me in to a panic attack that can last for days.

After cancer everything feels risky.  Traveling anywhere, forget internationally, and even short domestic trips.  Driving fast.  Sometimes even just leaving the house for a dinner out or a night with friends.  After cancer there are many days were I just want to cocoon up in my bed under the covers because that is the only place I feel safe. Every accident on the side of the road, every news story about a shooting, every Amber Alert, every Facebook post asking for prayers, I feel like it is happening to me.

After cancer I feel so much empathy for others going through trauma that it can be completely overwhelming and draining.  I feel the pain of a death or a recurrence from cancer deep in my hear..  It is a stabbing, throbbing pain that cuts me to my core.  I feel the pain of a mother taking her child to the ER as a tightening in my chest that can take days to subside.  

After cancer I am a crier.  I cry at movies and tv shows.  I cry at Facebook posts and on the phone with friends.  I have probably cried more in the 2 1/2 years after cancer than I did in the 36 years leading up to it.  It feels unnatural to me.  Like I am being a wimp or not being strong.  But I know that’s not true and that this is who I am now.  I am a much more sympathetic and empathetic person after cancer.

This empathy is for both the trials of friends, family and even strangers, but it is also for their joys and triumphs.  I cry when I see my kids up on a stage during a performance.  I cried when I watched my sister walk down the aisle.  I cry when a coworker celebrates good news.  Cancer intensified all of my emotions, the good and the bad.

Feeling so many emotions for both myself and for others can be draining and it has also forced me to sometimes shield myself from others.  There are days when I have to take a break from social media or phone calls and texts because I just can’t “feel” any more.  There are days that I know I can’t show up for a party or a girls night out or a family dinner because I am overwhelmed with feelings.  I need to give my brain, my body and my heart a break, from both the bad news and the good news.  

The highs after cancer are even higher and the lows after cancer are even lower, and this constant pendulum swing can take a toll on even the strongest person.  Be kind to yourself, during the highs and the lows.

Ana is a stage II cervical adenocarcinoma survivor & Cervivor Ambassador.  She lives in Mountain View, CA with her fiancé and two children. She is excited to take on a new job next year as the Dean of Greene Middle School and enjoys spending time with her family and being an advocate for the HPV vaccine.

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