I suppose it makes sense that I feel like I have been on a weird, long, kinda surreal roller coaster ride since Feb 2017. I have seen, done and experienced more in these last eighteen months than I could have ever imagined. I have lost friends and family, I have gained friends and family. I have lost hair and gained hair. I have travelled and touched islands in Scandinavia and the Caribbean. I have rested, deeply. I have stretched my emotional capacity beyond my wildest dreams. I have loved and have been loved. I have endured physical pain that taught me so, so much. I have leaned on a friend and was still capable for her to lean back on me. I have parented two teenagers during volatile teen years. Watching them watch me on my cancer journey has pushed me into zones of comfort and discomfort equally. I have researched and advocated, for myself and for others. I have asked for help. I have received help. I have given help.
I have the immense privilege to share so much of this journey with my friends, family and readers.
It is not in jest when I tell you that I am grateful for my life.
In fact, I find myself being extremely grateful even when I hit difficult times. I mindfully soak up experiences and little mundane moments - like taking the kids for ice cream or swimming in the Bay with them. So why is it that I feel like I have to share these things? Like I have to walk around praising life every moment because thats what you do after you have been faced or are facing a life threatening disease. Why is it as a cancer patient I feel this immense pressure to "prove" to myself and others that I am over this disease? Like I am back to "normal" and the hell I endured is thankfully over, so its time to forget about it and move on. Well, I am calling bull$%&# on that right now. Yes, on May 4, 2018 my mammogram and ultrasound confirmed that treatment worked and I had NED (no evidence of disease). Cancer free! Woo Hoo! I am crying as I write this as I realize it often takes me a few months to process stuff, so I am just completely grasping it all now. Lemme say, transitions are hard for me. I guess part of me felt relief with this great news and part of me thought, oh crap, what do I do now? Who am I now?
So yes, I am cancer free. Now what?!?!?! Now enter the weight of being a survivor. I am going to have to unpack that one in another post, actually well maybe in a book - that's how much "stuff" is attached to survivorship. Of course including survivors guilt.
Moving from full time active treatment, basically survivor mode, and into the next chapter is immense. What do I call this chapter? Is it healing, is it a "new" normal, is it depression or elation? Ha ha, basically it is all those things and more, so much freakin more. So, I am in recovery, yes I am going to call it recovery. For me this resonates the most. RECOVERY.
Its up to me what it means right? What it looks like, what it feels like. Wow! That is a lot of decisions for me to make with chemo brain ha ha ha! So I am going to take my time, be gentle with my footing (insert neuropathy joke here lol) and be gentle with myself. My family has been through so much in this year and a half. Nurturing us all back to some form of regular family routines is a must for moving beyond cancer. I am healthy and yet take a handful of drugs everyday. Drugs that remind me I had the disease that all of us are terrified of getting. I write and journal as often as I can. I regularly practice meditation and yoga. I love books and Netflix. I do not work for money currently and I may never again, who knows? My energy is gaining, way too slowly and my pain is still not under control. My pain is in fact exhausting and it is real, not in my head. I am working on getting my left shoulder stronger and I am actively treating my lymphedema. I have days, where I am reminded constantly that I had cancer. For example, just this morning, I had to change from capris pants to a skirt because it was so freakin humid out and I actually felt like my clothes had an agenda to suffocate me! I started to remove the pants with my sandals still on my feet (because I could not feel that I was actually wearing sandals) insert my balancing, jumping around in the bathroom, almost falling on my ass. So I say out loud "F - you cancer" as I start hilariously laughing. I am almost crying laughing because I am sure I look ridiculous and still could not figure out how to get my feet/shoes/pants under control. Sigh. Laughing that turns into crying on the bathroom floor, is not, unfortunately new to me. Yup, I am at that stage of things.
I am pacing myself and reducing all expectations, like seriously low, low, low expectations. Basically I am setting myself up to be successful. lol. So if I randomly cook dinner on a Wednesday, I am calling that a success and there might be fireworks.
I am thoroughly enjoying having no plans at all and at the same time I am feverishly making plans for the future.
What no one tells you about this experience is this rush towards doing everything you can to soak up every breathe you have. Sometimes I keep track of life events in seasons. I often wonder what next summer could look like while remembering what last summer did look like. Unfortunately I have had mortality literally stare me in the face. Oh how dramatic you say? Yes, indeed it might be, had I not gone to two funerals, of strong, courageous, wonderful women. Both of them taken by Breast Cancer. Both within these eighteen months. It kinda stings y' know? There is still so much I don't know. Just like you. I mean, I don't have a crystal ball -which is a cute saying- cute if you don't have a crystal ball, but I ACTUALLY DO have a crystal ball. For real. It was my Nana's and she used to tell me my fortune and my future when I was a kid. It was given to me after she passed away from the disease I am currently surviving.
I can't make too many promises right now. My mood and energy change often, without notice, possibly all in the same hour. I can barely keep up with my own self. There is however, one thing I can promise right now, here in this moment:
I promise to never sugar coat what I have been through.
Sugar is sweet, but it can rot your teeth. I am here to remind you that you have infinite strength and wisdom in you right now.
If I omit my hard truths because they are uncomfortable to read or see or hear, then I can't show you how strong I have become. When I show you my strength, please know it is because I know you can be this strong too (maybe even stronger). Discomfort, to a degree, can be our best teacher.
So, ya, I am good. Eighteen months after, I am good.