Just after Christmas in 2015, Angela Caraway went into warrior mode. It seems quite likely that this is what most women do when faced with a cancer diagnosis. Angela’s was an aggressive form of colon cancer. It would be a rough year, a year of treatments and uncertainty. Warrior mode was survival mode and survival mode was the only option.
As many women do, Angela put all her feelings on a shelf. You know the shelf. The shelf where you put all the things you are either too busy, too tired, or too scared to deal with, along with all those things that you just don’t quite know what to do with. So there they sit, and they wait.
Emotions safely tucked away, Angela arrived for her first treatment on February 24, 2016 wearing a shirt that read “Take One for the Team” and an attitude that masked her fear. Deep down, the shock of finding herself walking into a cancer clinic rocked her usual upbeat spirit.
The year went by. The treatments worked and Angela found herself on the other side of a battle that many do not have the good fortune to win.
On the morning of February 24, 2017, Angela awoke feeling anxious, nervous, and generally uneasy. The timing of these feelings caught her off guard, much as the feeling of walking into the cancer clinic had felt that first day. But why? Why now? Facebook’s famed “time hop” held the answer—this was the first anniversary of that first scary day at the clinic.
For some time after that, Angela dealt with a sense of worry and depression that seemed out of place considering what she had just come through. After all, she had come through. She had a lot to be thankful for and grateful people are seldom depressed, right?
At a point, it seemed prudent to seek wise counsel. Why would she feel this way? Was this normal? Shouldn’t she be overjoyed? She had beaten cancer. The ultimate win—so why this sense of loss?
It turns out all of those feelings that were stored away when Angela went into warrior mode were not gone, they were just waiting. Angela has been surprised by the emotional difficulties of post-cancer life, but she now understands that it is normal to have those emotions show up when life becomes safe enough to deal with them. This knowledge has removed the needless burden of fear.
Angela’s advice to all cancer survivors is to find community with other survivors; reach out for help; deal with the shelf.
Angela has been a supporter of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund for many years, in many capacities. Most recently, she was a part of the committee that hosted the inaugural Celebration Run/Walk, an event held to honor, encourage, and uplift cancer survivors. She is honored to be a part of Coach Yow’s team—uplifting survivors is something she is called to do.
Some days are easier than others, but Coach Yow’s words “be thankful everyday” resonate with Angela. She is thankful everyday. She is thankful to have overcome cancer. Thankful for the help that alleviated her fears. Thankful to be alive.
To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.