These last couple of months have been about my continued journey figuring out how to live with cancer. Every day that I don’t have a scan, I feel grateful. Sometimes, if even for a moment, I’m able to forget that I have cancer, that I will have a scan again, that someday, I may need more treatment. But most days there is some kind of a reminder (even a commercial can make me anxious if it’s somehow tied to health).
And yet, even with these daily reminders, I am still so enjoying life. Sure, not every day is perfect, and I still have those normal problems that most do– irritations at work, fighting with the plumbing company that broke a pipe in our house, worrying about bills and trying to remember to clean out the garage (or make my hubby do it!). While those “problems” are annoying, they’re also so normal and mundane that I almost enjoy them. Almost! But I’m also just learning to love those “simple” things… Coming home to a quiet house while the sun sets behind our backyard trees, chatting with my co-workers in the hallway about Scandal and the newest pair of wedges found at the Rack, and making plans for the future are all things that I never want to take for granted.
What’s difficult about making plans for the future are the “What if’s.” While everybody has ’em, mine have an added extra layer of the CWI (Cancer What If). I’m still learning how to make plans for the future without the asterisk next to it, and I’m not so good at it yet. Sean and I made summer plans for a vacation and when people ask I say, “G-d willing.” It’s not that I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, because I honestly live with an optimism that no matter what happens, I’m going to be able to handle it. I guess I just feel that by somehow keeping in the back of my mind the notion that I don’t have total control, I’m admitting my fear and admitting that the world can be a scary place, that cancer brings so much unknown. So I take steps forward, and I enjoy the anticipation of the upcoming vacations, but somewhere in the back of my mind I still feel like it could be taken away from me. Maybe not the best way to live, but honest.
Learning to live with cancer is more difficult than I can put into words. It’s about learning how to practice gratitude, take care of myself with abundance (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), and scream into a pillow when I need to. Though I’d love for it to be, it’s not all “every moment is precious” because quite frankly, I’m a human being who is, at times, terrified and so, so angry. Why do I have to admit it? Why do people say that I need to get in touch with the fear? I’d much rather just sweep it under the rug. But as Kris Carr says, “Sometimes mad-sad-rage is the ticket to self-preservation and liberation… But take note and then send positive energy to the sources of the pain.” I do find that most of the time I feel better in my gut if I acknowledge a not-so-pleasant feeling, release the pain or rage, accept that I have a right to however I feel, and then eventually, shift my thinking and come back to a more positive place. But sometimes that takes awhile, and I think that’s OK. Real. Authentic.
So even with all of the unknowns in life, I still know that there is lots that I can do to feel more in control. I’ve continued making some positive changes, and not just food/exercise wise (though those changes feel great so far!). I’ve also been working on boundaries with others, which is a hard thing for me to feel good at. People know me as the social worker/friend who they can turn to, which is wonderful, and I love being a good and supportive friend. But when it turns into “dumping” onto me, and the complaining is about something “small,” (think hangnail as compared to cancer), I need to put the kibash on it, for my own health. I’m not deterring my loved ones from leaning on me, confiding in me, and asking for my guidance and support (I wouldn’t have it any other way), but I do need people to understand that sometimes, I just can’t muster up empathy for a problem that in my world, would be a welcome problem. It doesn’t always feel good for me to admit that at times my empathy is lacking (especially as a social worker), but perhaps admitting my truth can actually help me to be the best version of myself that I can be. And I know that those that are closest to me and love me understand. I’m still figuring out what it’s like to live with cancer, and I know that you’re all figuring it out with me. We’ll just take it one day at a time. xoxo.