When you don’t feel like celebrating survival

You survived! Hurrah! Let’s get the marching band booked, and ring round everyone you know to book a party! Forget the bottle of champagne – let’s book a container load!

For some people this is absolutely what they want to do when they get good news. Particularly if the initial news was grim.

For many people though, getting the good news at the end of colorectal cancer treatment does not make them feel like celebrating.  There are a large number of reasons why this might be the case. For example:

  • you may want to be with your nearest and dearest.
  • you may be physically or emotionally exhausted.
  • it’s only now that the trauma of what has happened is hitting you and you’re in shock.
  • you may feel lost or bewildered and wondering ‘what next?’
  • you may feel you’re not completely off the hook because you still need to get to three years before you feel you can breathe a sigh of relief (if ever).
  • you may feel guilty to have survived when others didn’t.
  • you may be worried about money or about your nearest and dearest.
  • you may need some alone time to process what has happened
  • you may feel anxious but not know why.
  • you may feel insecure or embarrassed about the outcome (eg because of pain, scarring, diarrhoea or the need to wear a stoma).
  • you may be depressed or have low mood.
  • you might have other things you’d rather do.
  • you may just want to forget and not dwell on what has happened.

If you don’t feel like celebrating just yet (or ever) then that’s fine. Don’t feel pressurised or stressed into celebrating just to make others happy. Explain how you feel – for example, to a spouse, close friend or counsellor. Sometimes other people’s expectations can be irritating, upsetting or feel stressful. But this is your cancer and your feelings and you are perfectly entitled to deal with things how you want to. That said, remember that people want to celebrate with you because they love you, are pleased you made it, and are also relieved. If you don’t want to celebrate then you need to gently explain why. If you can’t explain this individually to people then why not post your thoughts on social media, or write them down and email them to people? You could even ask a partner or friend to do the explaining on your behalf.

Whatever you decide is all good. Personally, I’m saving up my celebration for three years cancer free. I shall probably have a little celebration though on the one-year anniversary of my operation.

If you are the friend, relative or partner of someone who just got the all clear, then by all means send flowers, a card, a message or whatever is normal for your relationship. But remember to listen to what your loved one wants and don’t see them turning down the celebration as a rejection. The most loving thing you can do is to accept they don’t want to celebrate and to say ‘when or if you feel you’d like to, just say the word!’ Loving them means letting them be in control and decide what’s best for them at this time. Don’t take it personally because it’s not a reflection on you.

Did you feel up to celebrating? Did you feel pressurised to be joyful or to celebrate in a certain way? How did you explain your feelings to your family and friends?

Friends! Were you confused or upset when your loved one refused to celebrate?

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