I Might Be Cancer Free, But…

“I might be cancer-free, but I’m far from healed.” This is a phrase that has been circling in my head for the past few months. My journey with cancer has been 19 months of treatment and surgeries. The day I was allowed to head home was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life, but something felt off.

Human looking at sunset over ocean with the Text "I Might be Cancer Free, But..."
I Might be Cancer Free, But…

I wasn’t ready to start living again yet because there were so many things still unresolved internally.

At the same time, I didn’t know what those underlying issues were that were going on. Only that my actions and behavior was coming across negatively with my family. I was feeling anger, anxiety, guilt about the current situation and circumstances.

I had been living with cancer for so long that I didn’t know how to process the change. It was time to call my psychiatrist and get some sort of release on what these feelings were about. My therapist helped me through this journey by providing me with an outlet where I could share my thoughts while in the hospital during the transplant.

Work on the “WHY’S” of my Anxiety

There were a number of things that were affecting why I was feeling frustrated and angry. The big one was going through this cancer experience during the Covid pandemic.

I was re-diagnosed with my lymphoma in July of 2019. I started treatment at the end of that month. And after some setbacks got through my final round of radiation at the beginning of December 2019. At this point I had at least six months till we could see any results. In the middle of March, the country shut down.

Needless to say, the fear was running high!

Covid and Cancer

Summer came and scans and scheduling started back up. We found out that the radiation did not work and we tried four cycles of Keytruda immunotherapy. The results showed that the lymphoma was spreading and the immunotherapy was not working.

The decision was made to do a Sibling Allogenic Stem-cell Transplant. And that Included the conditioning treatment to get my body back into remission. The Month of September 2020 was heavy with he date of my transplant on October 29th 2020.

As of this writing, Im +200 days since my transplant. Spring has sprung up here in the high country and starting to spend some time outside. This has been a massive positive with my mental health.

But my Anxiety wasn’t getting better.

I was feeling anger and guilt because of this situation that cancer had put me in. My wife building up resentment because I can’t work. Not bring in financial needs that I had taken care of in the past. The stress that comes along with survivorship is difficult for anyone to go through. Even those with great financial means.

Even with current events so politically polarizing, I catch myself being super angry about things that I have no control over. Masks being a big part of that.

Living in a resort town there’s a big element of transient’s and an attitude of not caring. Like out of state drivers driving with reckless abandonment. Maybe I see and feel this more than most because of the new perspective I have on life. Especially after this last year.

Right now, I’m Cancer Free!

And that should be good enough for right now!

I’m not ashamed to tell you that this past Thursday I met with my psychiatrist that helped me during my stay in the hospital. I felt it necessary that I start working on the survivorship side. To deal with the Anger, Anxiety and Guilt of how life has unfolded in front of me over the lat 100 days.

Most importantly, my family doesn’t deserve my current behavior and attitude. The goal is to get better, not be depressed and burry my head in the sand!

I am in a vulnerable period of life. And have been through a very difficult experience. But, while my personal responsibility is to be patient and vulnerable for the sake of those who are closest to me, my family and friends, I’ve learned that it also includes being able to ask for help when needed.

When your attitude is expressed in a negative light, this can easily lead you down the road of depression if not dealt with properly. This stems from anger and/or anxiety as well as denial or avoidance.

There’s no easy way out of this only acceptance and acknowledgement.

I am a Survivor!

But that doesn’t mean I can give up and let my mental health suffer as well!

Focusing on mental health is what you should be doing to heal yourself from the inside out. And taking care of your mental state has just been another reminder for me that it’s not only about physical healing but emotional recovery as well.

This will take time, patience, and a lot of work on myself in order to get back into a “normal” life again without being depressed or anxious all because of how much control I feel like I’m losing over things.

But it’s worth it if that’s where I want to end up… To live an organized happy fulfilled life feeling at peace with myself. -Todd

About the Author

Todd Franzen is a Stage 4 Lymphoma Survivor. Living in Breckenridge Colorado

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