What Does It Mean to Go Through Cancer?

Taryn Hillin
3 min readMar 7, 2022


What does it mean to go through cancer treatment? To have your organs stolen from you, your body poisoned and burned in the name of a “maybe cure” and to find yourself suddenly saddled with a dark passenger — waiting for your guard to come to down so it can strike again in its new and improved form … “recurrence.”

Sometimes, this is how “after cancer” feels. A battle, in which the enemy has all the power and you are a sitting duck. You are meant to be grateful just to be alive — but you are still in pain from the trauma of treatment. You still yearn for the life you had before. And the fear keeps you from moving on.

But what does it mean to go through cancer treatment? To be given a new lease on life, a greater appreciation for family, friends, and love. A deeper sense of empathy for your fellow humans. To live in miracle energy, in which you defied the odds and came out the other side stronger. To know that you were given a gift, so many of your comrades were denied.

This is also what “after cancer” feels like. Sometimes you are on top of the mountain — you climbed your Everest and lived to tell the tale.

But the smallest setbacks can drain your energy and steal your faith that better days are coming.

It’s a fragile balancing act and one I struggle with daily. There are moments when I am SO grateful, I could burst with love and acceptance. Then, there are times I am SO angry — I feel as if my youth was stolen, my optimism destroyed and my ability to give life was taken from me without a second to spare. I become overwhelmed with the difficulty of my life — the side effects, the chemo-induced high cholesterol, the bad blood labs, the increased risk of death from a million other things on top of cancer.

I’m so traumatized from cancer that every time I get even a little sick I descend into a pit of desperation. Never again, I tell myself. But I am only human and cannot control everything. If anything, my body has performed a miracle. It took a 7% chance of survival and ran with it. It carried me through treatment and these past 2.5 years nearly flawlessly (minus a shingles outbreak, a rhinovirus, norovirus, and some random neutropenic fevers). I never even got Covid. All in all, it deserves an A+, it could have been so much worse.

But is that my “forever bar”? When I get down, I ask myself, “What if you had chemo tomorrow? Would you not wish for it to be today again?” Yes, of course. But does that mean everything for the rest of my life will be measured against chemo-radiation and a possible death sentence? Is that a blessing or a curse? A blessing to say, “don’t sweat the small stuff”, but a curse in that all my pain post-cancer is invalidated because … I’m simply not dead.

It’s a tough road. I wish I had answers on the best way to navigate it but I do not. I think cancer patients in this country are cut a raw deal. We are put on the cancer conveyor belt, handed our cancer diplomas, and shoved into the world. “Good luck, hope you don’t die”. But I don’t fear dying, I fear not living. I want a LIFE. I want a life after cancer.

For those who don’t know my story, I was dx with high-grade small cell neuroendocrine Stage 3C in 2019, which carries a 7% to 10% chance of survival. I underwent a radical hysterectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and brachytherapy. Since treatment ended I have been using alternative treatments — high dose IVC, mistletoe, acupuncture — to remain cancer-free. My social accounts, [@] TheanticancerLife on TikTok and IG are designed to help other cancer patients navigate treatment and prevent cancer.



Taryn Hillin

Writer, journalist, media strategist. Sony TV Diverse Writers '21; Universal Writers '22; Formerly of HuffPost, Fusion, TMZ, and VP Strategy ENTITY. Yale grad.