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Three Months After Chemo: What Happens After Chemo is Finished?

Men's Pants to Avant-Garde Skirt Refashion
Going for Green: No-Sew Nightgown to Dress Refashion

Hello Friends! It’s been three months-ish since my last chemotherapy treatment, and I wanted to drop in and let you know how I’m doing since a lot of you have asked.

After my final cycle of chemo, I was officially declared in remission with no evidence of disease (NED). Great, right?!?

jillian after chemo
Nothing to worry about now, right?

I had no idea how I’d end up feeling post-chemotherapy.

There really isn’t much information out there about what it’s like for cancer survivors after chemo is done and they’re out on their own again.

That’s why I’m writing this. I hope it helps others who are going through similar experiences.

For the first month, I was really really sad and scared.

I feel like this sounds crazy, but for the first month after chemo, I felt sad and scared.

During treatment, I was in survival mode– doing everything I needed to do to get through each grueling day. I kept myself busy as I could to avoid contemplating the abject horror of what my body was being put through.

jillian after chemo looking down
It’s okay to not be okay.

As I started to feel better physically, all the emotions I had been avoiding came crashing over me. I was sad about the loss of my health, everything I had been through, everything my husband had been through, and the months of recovery to come.

I was also terrified of recurrence.

While I was relieved to be done with chemo, I felt unprotected without it. Yes, it made me sick all the time, but it also killed my cancer. What would stop it from coming back now?

Before you dismiss me as being a hypochondriac, keep in mind recurrence rates for stage 3 ovarian cancer are very high, and survival rates are very low.

Of course, these numbers are just based on statistics and every person is different. I hope I’m one of the lucky ones whose cancer doesn’t come back, but these statistics are pretty freaking daunting.

(I promise this post gets happier!)

Reaching Out for Help

As you can probably imagine, feeling scared and sad all the time wasn’t exactly ideal. So, I called my oncology center and asked for a referral for a therapist who had experience with cancer survivors.

That day, they found one for me. She told me my feelings were totally normal after everything I had just experienced.

“But I should be happy. I’m done with chemo. I’m cancer-free. I should be doing cartwheels right now.”

“Who says you should be happy?”

Since then, I’ve been meeting with her weekly. It’s helped me to process my feelings and get back to a much happier & more mindful version of myself.

refashionista three months after chemo
Feeling much happier now!

My First Recurrence Scare

Right when I was starting to feel better and more like myself, I began experiencing symptoms of recurrence.

It started out as stomach cramps after meals. Over a few weeks, it worsened to the point where I couldn’t eat anything without becoming violently ill.

My oncologist prescribed meds to treat my symptoms, and brought me in for bloodwork and a CT scan.

Recurrence was a possibility, but it was also possible that my tummy troubles were late effects from the high dose of chemo I had been on.

No no no no no no no no, I thought. It can’t be back this soon. It just can’t. I don’t want to go through all of that again.

When I stopped by the oncology center the day before my scan to pick up my barium shake (yum…not), I ran into one of my nurses from the infusion area.

“Well hey!!!” she cheerfully greeted me.

The hallway seemed to grow longer and narrower. I felt woozy. I gave a weak wave and practically ran away from her (I feel bad about it, as she’s really sweet).

I didn’t want to see her again. I didn’t want to see that room again. This was supposed to be over, at least for a little longer.

jillian and brian
So grateful to have this wonderful man by my side through all of this. Blonde Liza is okay too.

Good News: I’m Still Cancer-Free!

An hour after the scan, Mr. Refashionista and I met with my oncologist who informed us my scan was completely clear, and my bloodwork looks great too.

Now I have an appointment with a gastroenterologist to figure out what’s going on with my stomach, but as anything is better than cancer, I’m not that worried about it.

Feeling Better

I’m happy to report I’m feeling much better now, both mentally and physically.

I’m eating healthy and working out almost every day to get stronger (drinking a green smoothie as I type this). It’s going to be a long road to get back to where I was pre-cancer, but I’m determined.

Two months ago, I volunteered at our outdoor COVID vaccination site, and am now fully inoculated (they give volunteers the vaccine when they have some left over).

It felt good to help my community and I’m relieved to have one less health thing to worry about.

jillian volunteering at covid site
I was still totally bald at the time, and Liza accompanied me.

Hair Growth After Chemo

My hair is coming back too! About a month after treatment, fuzz began to show up on my head.

Three months out, my hair is about 1/2″ long, a little thinner and greyer than before (fine by me!), and loooooks like it may be coming in curly (fun!). It’s also super soft and when I touch it, it feels like petting a hamster.

About two months after treatment, I noticed a sort of “five o’clock shadow” on my eyebrows and lashes. Now they’re almost back to normal! For some reason, I thought my brows and lashes would grow back a few at a time, but they came back in full force.

hair growth three months after chemo
I literally just took this pic today!

What now?

Now that my three month checkup ended up totally clear, I don’t have another until July.

In the meantime, I’m focusing on taking good care of myself (physically and mentally), as well as working on this blog!

I can’t help but feel that things are finally looking up.

You can read more about my cancer journey here.

Cheers!

Men's Pants to Avant-Garde Skirt Refashion
Going for Green: No-Sew Nightgown to Dress Refashion

104 thoughts on “Three Months After Chemo: What Happens After Chemo is Finished?”

  1. Thank you so much for continuing to share your journey with us! I am so happy to know your health is improving! Sending you warm wishes, prayers and virtual hugs!!!

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  2. So glad to hear you are doing well!!! I’ve had several friends who had hair come back in curly after treatment, I’m sure it’s hormones as I experienced a similar kind of thing after I went through menopause. Sending you thoughts for continued good health!

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  3. You look beautiful – such a wonderful smile. I am a cancer survivor and understand the fear of recurrence. I knew in my head the annual screening was necessary, but my heart was so afraid it would signal that my wonderful marriage would end too soon. How blessed you are to have such a sweet husband; how blessed he is that you appreciate him.
    I’m keeping you both in my prayers.

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  4. Thank you for your update! I’ve been reading all of your post’s and couldn’t be happier for you and your husband.

    Thank you for such delightful post’s you are such a joy and an inspiration.

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  5. Congratulations! I am also an ovarian cancer survivor. It does feel like when chemo ends, they just dump you. I found the Livestrong at the Y program very helpful. Not sure how that works in a pandemic, though.

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  6. I’ve been through it (2012-2013) and so has my husband (2017-2018). Surgery and radiation treatments. We were both fortunate to not have to go through the chemo. I just spoke to my “cancer” therapist this morning– Yes, I still talk to her every two weeks. I went through some scary depression after my “all clear”. Good thing I got treatment for that a couple of years after my bout with the big C and two years before my husband’s turn. There is nothing better than loving support to get you through it. And acknowledging it helps the helper–My husband was stoic through my journey, but cried when I thanked him for sticking with me through the hard times. You’ve got everything you need to get to a healthier place. (I won’t lie. I still have issues from radiation, and so does hubs. But new normal can be okay, too.) Peace and love.

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  7. Such great news! Your honest descriptions of these experiences have sometimes given me a little shudder of PTSD, they have been so true to life. As so many other survivors here have shared: look forward, trust God, and enjoy every moment, every day, every joke, every thrifting trip, precious pets,beloved DH, and all the good things. Continue to be your vibrant, sincere, beloved self. We are with you all the way.

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  8. Very brave and generous of you to share your journey. So glad that your scan was clear. Keep on doing what you do. You are a great inspiration to us all.

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  9. Thrilled with your Clear! Scan news. It’s a beautiful word—my husband has been battling cancer for 10 years. Good for you getting help instead of guilting yourself into thinking you should only be happy. I think it’s essential to live with those feelings, let them breathe, and heal over time—so you can be Whole.

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  10. Glad to know you where smart enough to seek help. Always know you have many many friends in the refashion world rooting for you. What you are feeling is normal. I have responded to your posts many times over the years. I am a stage 4 lymphoma patient. I have known from the beginning it was not curable. At the time of diagnosis I was given 2 to 5 years. Fast forward it’s now twenty!!!! Years later. Drugs and treatment get better. Your out look and will to survive also play a apart in this disease. I am a believer and I believe God wasn’t ready for me and had work for me to continue here on earth. If your not religious at least be spiritual, believe the fates are going to allow you lots of time to do many new and important things. Believe you have many people,pet’s and projects you must be here to complete and continue loving. Just for fun my first chemo left my hair get straight and thin(was very curly). My second and current chemo has left my hair wavy and very gray(was salt and pepper). Keep your chin up and enjoy life day by day.plan something special every three months or six months. A short trip or party. Something to look forward to and plan for. Several things we have done were Christmas in July with gag gifts, viking party and dog birthday party. Get creative it’s fun. LIve,live, live

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  11. Thank you for sharing about the flood of emotions after the chemo. I had no idea. I thought there would be instant relief and building up the body again only. This helps me to be more sympathetic to those who have been through this body and emotional trauma. Who knew ? Last year I had extensive skin cancer surgery on my scalp and of course the missing hair possibly not returning (it did, but odd in spots), the fear of reaccurance will always be with me.

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  12. So excited for you to be on your recovery journey and thanks for sharing your story…it is always great to stop by your little part of the world and to see what you are up to…keep up the good fight..Abby

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  13. You are so kind and generous to share all of this with us. I’m sure it is or will be very helpful to many of us. And it is so wonderful to hear how you are doing! Best wishes for continued recovery and NED!!

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  14. I understand your feelings so deeply. After I finished my treatments, 6 chemo treatments followed by 3 months of radiation, then I was cut loose. I was in shock. I needed my nurses, my support system. I feared everything. But I survived. I had a couple of recurrence scares since then, always came back clean. I changed my life, my eating habits, my sleeping habits. I got rid of toxic people. Now – 28 years later, I am still here, still cancer-free and still loving life. I tell people all the time – “I am grateful that I had cancer. It taught me a lesson that I would have never learned otherwise. To live life fully and be grateful!” Wishing you a long and wonderful life ~ Candace

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  15. God bless you! Thank you for being so candid about your feelings going through this trial! Your positivity is like a ray of sunshine!

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  16. Jillian, I am SO happy to see your happy smile again! I’m glad chemo is over and you’re on the road to recovery! Cancer is a scary thing and you never know where the roller coaster ride will take you! Melanoma survivor here. My prayers continue to be with you and Mr. R for strength and comfort. We are all behind you and lifting you up in well wishes and prayer! XOXO

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  17. We are ALL thrilled your chemo is over, grateful you are still with us and so appreciative you took time to share the difficulties. No hiding for you, behind your lovely smile and positive attitude …life can hand out some rough times. Kiss Kiss!

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  18. Thank you for sharing your experiences and keeping us updated! I hope that you continue to get stronger and stay cancer free.

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  19. Jillian … you are an absolutely incredible woman … and angel of information and care. Stay well. We love you and what you do for us.

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  20. Thank you for your blog. I look forward to them all, and enjoy your refashions (even though they inspire me, I rarely refashion anything, except for shortening a hem or two!). This blog has really affected me, with your honesty and optimism. If I were ever in your situation (or something similar), I hope that I could be as generous and thoughtful and cheerful as you are. You are a hero to me.

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  21. I am thrilled for your good reports! You are always such a joy for all of us following you. Thank you for letting us be a part of your life.

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  22. congrats to you and Mr R. What a long haul, but safe one. Now it’s good health and happy times ahead. So glad for you. U go girl! Sincerely, C

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  23. I cried when I read this post. I am so happy that you are doing well. I enjoy reading your posts and I’m so glad your sharing this with us. Rooting for you every day! God bless

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  24. Little did I know when I stumbled across your blog a few years ago, that I would be following such a cosmopolitan woman. Your refashions are inspiring, your cancer journey (and updates) profound. You are now helping us both outside (refashions) and inside (sharing your cancer experience with your frank discussions/observations). You have my deepest respect, and admiration.

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  25. Bonjour Jillian – thank you, thank you to be so honest, to dare to speak like you do about the fear, the sadness, and also, in the same post, of your joy to be alive and to have a sweet friend around – It’s a difficult time, a time for baby steps, go up, go down – you are a beautiful person (in french we say « une belle personne », it’s about the global you, not only your apparence) – I am waiting for your posts, there are so luminous – Keep well

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  26. Years ago I happened upon your blog and was instantly a fan. You are the friend I’ve never met! I refashion and have my own little blog, and I’ve learned from you. Going through your cancer treatment here has been insightful and I find myself praying for you (and Mr. Refashionista!). You are an inspiration my dear!

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  27. Congratulations on how well you are doing! I’m hoping that your stomach problems are just a delayed reaction to the chemo and will correct itself quickly! And I’m amazed at how willing you are to put yourself out there, to be vulnerable about what you’ve gone through and your feelings in order to help others. I’m convinced that it does help others going through what you have. And, of course, I love the refashions you share! 😀 You are an amazing young woman!!

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  28. There’s no roadmap for recovery, so give yourself a break and know that it’s ok to feel scared and sad sometimes. You’ll be able to breathe more and more after each checkup and each confirmation that you are cancer free!!

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  29. As you can see, we all love you and we’re delighted with the good news. So glad you found someone to help you process all those scary feelings. God bless you.

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  30. Thank you for sharing. It’s good to hear you’re beginning to feel better. Continued improvement to you in your quest to remain in a less scary place. Prayers always

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  31. You certainly are not a hypochondriac! I had 17 treatments, every 3 weeks for a year. During that time, I felt protected, too. But once the treatment was over, I didn’t feel relief right away, either. It was scary not to see the Dr. every 3 weeks. I kept asking him for the first few months when I might begin not thinking about it all the time. He was such a lovely man, and he twinkled his fingers in front of my face and said that is where the thoughts are right now, but in time, and he moved his hand behind my head, he said in time you will find those thoughts will move to the back of your thoughts. You will never forget about what you have been through, and will think every time something seems off “what is that?” But eventually you will go on with your day and increasingly will find it is not uppermost in your thoughts. He was right. I make a mental note of everything that seems off and if I would have something that doesn’t go away, I will call the office and make an appointment.

    My head hurt when the hair was coming out, and itched as it was coming back in, No one really prepares you for losing all of your hair, everywhere! But I did have a summer that I didn’t have to shave my legs! Bonus of sorts. I used to joke that I had my hair and someone else’s because it was so thick. I lost about half so now I know that I was blessed with so much so I would still have a decent amount when it came back.

    Good for you for seeing someone specialized in cancer treatment to process your thoughts with. It isn’t something that everyone would understand. Not even every patient has the same experience. But I truly don’t think anyone who has not been through it can really know how it feels. Mr. Fashionista might also benefit from someone to talk to. It was certainly difficult for him to see his lovely wife having to endure this.

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  32. Thank you so much for the update on your health. I have been thinking about you a lot and wondering how you are coping. You are such a strong and brave woman and have such a positive attitude, I know you are going to be ok. With Mr Refashionista by your side you have everything to look forward to.

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  33. You are the best. I can’t tell you how much I love and appreciate you for writing this post. I appreciate you for lots of things. This may be the best yet.

    THANK YOU. You being **you** in the world is such a good thing. I pray you have all the wellness there could ever be. And all my best to the Mr. also. He seems like such a great guy and right there with you the whole way.

    CiM

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  34. You accurately described my feelings when I finished chemo for breast cancer. I fell apart when I knew I had beat it. Then for years I thought every ailment was the cancer returning. Congrats on being cancer free and thanks for describing what too many of us have experienced.

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  35. thankful for your post. thankful that chemo helped heal your body from cancer. thankful that there are drugs out there now that work sometimes and thankful that new drugs come on the market every single day that work even better.

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  36. You are a very strong and beautiful young lady! Your blog inspires all of us to live each day with joy. Continue to enjoy your recovery with a renewed zest for life.

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  37. Brilliant, Jillian. I’m so glad you’ve had your Covid jab too and volunteering to vaccinate others too, now that’s cool x

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  38. Jillian,
    You are not a hypochondriac – you are a normal, recovering person who went through more than most this past year. The pandemic alone is enough to send us all to therapy (which is absolutely the thing to do if one needs it), but combine that with your Dx, and your treatment, it’s no wonder that you were feeling all those feelings. You are strong and brave and you will conquer anything that comes your way. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.
    Thanks for your blog and your tips and encouragement. Janine in NJ

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  39. I really feel your post can help many others. Even though I’m not a survivor myself, I can understand how you’re feeling sad and frightened in this process, when you think you should feel happy instead. Emotions are strange like that, they always catch up:). Thanks for sharing!

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  40. I’ve passed your blog on to friends who had friends going through chemo and didn’t have anyone to guide them. They were so thankful for your blog…you’ve helped a lot of people. Sending prayers your way!!

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  41. You have all the right to be scared in such a position. I think you have done amazingly well, even doing posts in between. I especially love your sense of humor! So glad you got good news and I hope it stays that way. You are far too young! Thank you for you blog!

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  42. So happy to hear you’re doing so much better. I can relate to fear of cancer recurring , I am 9 years cancer free. Unfortunately the fear does not go away but it isn’t a constant like the first year or so of recovery. You are a constant inspiration to so many. Love your blog! Stay strong!

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  43. I would never think that you are a hypochondriac. Why do we label ourselves with negative connotations when we’re experiencing strong emotions? I have not had cancer but did experience an extremely traumatic event and suffer from PTSD – how many times did I ask myself if I was going crazy. I wasn’t – my feelings were real – terrifying and debilitating. I am able to cope a little better now because what I am going through is normal based on my experience. Just as your feelings are likely typical for people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Be kind to yourself. Thank you for volunteering and helping others.

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  44. If positive thoughts are magic, you will never go through this again! I look forward to seeing your refashion posts. You are so clever. If the cancer comes back, you will deal with it. You are stronger now. I wish you the very best in life.

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  45. Thank you for sharing this – reading these comments, I can see how much you are helping even people who don’t know you (all your adoring fans!) Sending you and Mr. Refashionista so much love and so many hugs, so glad you are vaccinated and cancer-free. I’m so glad you have a wonderful counselor, too.

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  46. Thank you for being a champion for the importance of mental health and for your community by volunteering. No one should have to feel alone or like their feelings aren’t valid, no matter what they are, especially after such a roller coaster. I love your posts and am so happy you are cancer free. You bring so much joy to this world. Always rooting for you <3

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  47. You look fabulous! I’m so glad to read your feeling better. Prayers continue for speedy recovery and continued remission.

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  48. Congrats on three months clear!!! Every one of those milestones is worthy of celebration. My mom just crossed the 5 year clear mark after HER2+ breast cancer that went from a stage 2 to stage 4 during chemo. I was her caretaker through it all and everything you’ve said feels very familiar. Her hair also came back grayer and curly at first, but once it grew out a little bit more the curl went away. I’m sure she’d envy you, though, as her eyebrows and lashes are still hopelessly anemic.

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  49. I have looked forward to hearing about your updates and this news is wonderful. I have not been so lucky and am about to start my 2nd battle. Love seeing your refashions and your upbeat attitude. Thank you.

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  50. Blessings to you. I enjoy your insights and your sewing skills. Yes, I felt the same feeling, like being adrift without the medication or chemo as a lifeline. It took me a while too, but I began not to fear the blood tests. They were fine, I would be fine. When they weren’t fine anymore, I took it in stride because my wonderful oncologist wasn’t panicking. I adopted his attitude and he got me through the recurrence and 2nd stem cell transplant. And love your hair! I got the chemo curls and I adore them!

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  51. I have been cancer free for 2 years, but I still freak out. I had to have a biopsy before xmas and was so scared, but i play it like i’m ok. Thank you for sharing this, because I feel the same, but I think our journey will never be over. I’m just grateful my Dr.s still see me and take every precaution. I too feel like a hypochondriac but, when its something minor, i think now, well, at least its not cancer. Good LUck and i look forward to ur posts, starte for the fashion, staying because of you

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  52. So so happy to hear your fantastic news!!.

    Your honesty and way of putting the good, the bad, the nitty-gritty into words is amazing. I adore your sense of humour and love seeing that gorgeous smile of yours.

    Take care and keep smiling.

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  53. One day at a time… just keep plugging along! I’m glad you went for counselling when you did. It’s just a part of your treatment to getting better. I’m SO glad you’re feeling hopeful and excited about the future..

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  54. Such a wonderful post to start my Monday. I am delighted that things are on an upswing including the hair. You look great no matter what’s on your head by the way.

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  55. I’m so happy for you and enjoy being cancer free! Every recheck is scary and all the frightful feelings return, but take it one day at a time and soon it will only be barely visible in the rear view of your life!

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  56. I am so happy for you. Sending prayers, good vibes and positive mojo for a long and healthy cancer-free life. You look beautiful.

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  57. congratulations!!!! that is so exciting to know you are in remission! Sorry you are having tummy troubles but i feel sure that will subside. Thank you for sharing your journey. Keep on keeping on!

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  58. First of all, Congratulations! You did it! Secondly, there is a fantastic Korean drama on Netflix called “It’s Okay Not to be Okay”, third, in Seattle there is a wonderful organization called Cancer Lifeline that provides all kinds of free programs, support groups, listening ears, etc. Yes, Seattle, but everything is zoom now, you could totally attend anything. Most of all, thank you for sharing your experience so candidly. You help everyone.

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  59. I’m so happy for you, Jillian! Wonderful news! And I’m with your therapist. Your feelings are completely normal. I would have been worried if you hadn’t had them.

    Hang in there! You’re doing great!

    *Gentle Hugs*

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  60. Oh, Jillian I’m so happy for you. I’m with your therapist your feelings are completely normal. In fact, if you hadn’t expressed them I would have worried about you. You’re doing great! And I’m so, so happy for you!
    *Gentle Hugs*

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  61. Isn’t that wonderful — including the realization that it’s OK not to be OK. You have such amazing spirit. May your good news continue forever.

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  62. You are amazing and you look wonderful. I’m thrilled that you’re now in such a great place, and thank you for sharing it all with us.

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