It’s almost the time of year for two popular tunes to be sung. “How Many More Miles?,” or the alternate, “Are We Almost There,?” are familiar to anyone who has traveled with children. (I do hope you sang them in your head just now with the proper amount of whine!)

U.S. Military Service MembersEvery summer, my husband and I would pack up the car and the kids for a cross-country trip to visit Grandma and Grandpa. About two hours into the trip, the chorus would begin. It was a long haul, but finally we’d see that glorious sign, “Welcome To Florida!” Everybody would cheer because we were almost there. At the welcome station, while sipping our complimentary orange juice, we’d pull out the paper map, unfold it with great ceremony and show the kids how very far we’d already driven. We’d show them where we were and trace the remaining miles all the way down to southern Florida. The truth was, we still had another six hours of driving ahead of us. It seemed to be the longest six hours. We were all tired, cranky and ready for the driving to be done.

What an analogy for a journey with cancer! On Oct. 3, 2014, my family celebrated with me as the rounds of chemo and radiation finally ended. We were ready to put that journey behind us. Little did we know we still had “six hours to go.”

The return to normal life after the active phase of cancer treatment is more like the last leg of a cross-country road trip than a quick “Beam me up, Scotty.” Fatigue can make it seem as if the air has been let out of your tires. A setback can feel like a big ol’ Texas U-turn. Sometimes you think you’re stuck in Indiana. It’s a pretty good place to be, but it’s not quite there yet.

Just as each road trip is unique, your cancer journey is unlike that of anyone else. God created our bodies with a wonderful capacity for healing, but it does take time. Eventually you will unpack and toss out those old travel brochures. (You know, the ones with fascinating names like “Radiation and You.”) You may be able to exchange exotic foods like Boost and Ensure for good old home cooking. You’ll be sleeping in your own bed. If you are still on the road, remember just how far you have traveled. Indiana may not be home, but it’s almost there.

Share Your Thoughts

What was it like when you completed the active phase of cancer treatment? How long was your journey back to normal? Share your thoughts below.

About the Author

Since she was a young girl growing up in Wauwatosa, Beth Dowhen has loved teaching. Eventually Beth received a phone call from the principal of Wisconsin Lutheran High School asking if she would consider teaching there. After 19 years, Beth reluctantly left the school and students she loved because she had developed an undiagnosed medical condition that left her exhausted after a day in the classroom. For two years, Beth and her doctors tried to solve the mystery. Eventually, Beth was diagnosed with Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma at the base of her tongue. No one suspected oral cancer since Beth was a nonsmoker, nondrinker, and HPV negative. Beth has received radiation and chemotherapy and some complementary acupuncture therapy, and now her scans show no evidence of cancer. She's returned to teaching, this time as a volunteer parenting coach at a counseling center.