August 21, 2010


it seems that i'm slowly working through the high anxiety phase of life post-treatment, and entering a new where i get to take control and re-build my body, my mind and my life.

i think a lot of the anxiety had to do with my scan...and waiting to find out if i was cancer free, if i could move on with life, or if i'd find myself back in, well, a place i don't ever want to be in again. and, then, i had my scan, and found out i was cancer free. you'd think, and i had fully expected, to be ecstatic and go on to celebrate for days on end. let me assure you, it went nothing like that. a lot of that had to do with the way the news was delivered (in a not so super excited way), but it just seemed to be that i had been granted permission to continue to live without cancer. there are no guarantees i'm cured, or that i don't have any other issues...just that, for now, i'm free of cancer. and, don't get me wrong, that's a wonderful place to be in, but it's certainly not what i expected it to be. i know it will get easier as time goes on, but i think in some way, we're all waiting for a doctor to tell us that we'll be perfectly fine...but it's cancer, and life - there are no such promises.

so, as i learn to accept the reality that i will live life in three month increments for a while, i have to continue to push forward and have hope that every doctor's visit will be permission to live a little longer. of course, that sounds silly, and you're thinking 'no one can tell you to have to do it anyways'. well, yes...and i am, i'm starting my master's, i'm getting back to my healthy self, and i'm moving forward...but, there will be hesitation for a while, and that's just a part of this crazy journey i've found myself on.

but, in the meantime, i've begun to re-build. cancer puts your life on hold from the time you're diagnosed to the time you finish treatment. again, you may say 'you should always continue to live', and again you're right, but there are definite limitations. cancer takes a lot of things away from you - mental and physical health, progress towards long term goals, money, and so on. and, it's not like once you finish treatment those things easily come're tired, you're worn down, you're emotional, and you have no idea who you are. you really have to work hard to re-build, and i don't think anyone should expect it to come easy.

perhaps my biggest challenge has been dealing with the emotional fall-out of cancer survivorship. i went from someone who's always been well psychologically, to someone who could really use help getting through a really tough time. and, as someone who's never needed help in this area, it was really hard to accept it. but, working with a counselor (and one who only deals with cancer patients/survivors) was the best thing i could have done for myself and everyone in my life. i've learned to recognize and accept the emotions and phases i experience on this end of the cancer journey, and i've learned ways to get through each of them. cancer is tough...but, emotionally, survivorship is tougher. it doesn't make you weak to need help.

i've also taken a new pride in re-building my health. this, also, isn't easy. i'm still tired, a little overwhelmed, and really busy. but, let's face all the things we can't control about our health, there are many things we can control. i know i had some pretty harsh treatment that will put me at a higher risk of some serious health conditions - many of which are now out of my control. however, i know i can control whether or not i get out of bed every morning and go for my run. some days, this is about as easy as it was to convince myself to go to a counselor...but, every piece of evidence in the world says exercise is vital for health. and, to know you're doing something good for yourself every day is an amazing feeling.

and, lastly, i'm pushing forward towards those long term goals i put on hold for the last year. i start my master's in social work a week from monday...the first step in what i know will be an amazing career as an oncology social worker. everyone keeps telling me how much work it will be, and how stressed i'll be. yes, it will be a lot of work. but i really do believe that if i can survive a year with cancer, that i can certainly get through a master's degree, too.

so, three months and three weeks out of treatment, i can say that with each is better, and this journey becomes more and more of a blessing. i've learned so much in the last year, and while it's the toughest journey i've ever been on, i've definitely realized that nothing worthwhile ever comes without a fight. when things come easy we often don't appreciate them as we should...and now, i get to feel grateful to simply wake up every day and do something to make my life, and the life of others, more meaningful.

for those of you in a phase of this journey where you can't see the other side (especially you texas warriors), just know that you'll get there, and that this challenge you're facing...whatever it part of the path we're on, and that there's something to be gained from it. just put one foot in front of the other, and you'll get to where you need to be.

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