April 26, 2011

'may i accept the journey for what it is, not what i think it should be'

as the days in april wind down, i realize i owe an update here. i intended to write one after my visit to dana farber last month, but i never really got around to it. all went well - blood work was perfect, exam was fine, etc. i feel so grateful, but for some reason this visit just didn't put my mind at ease. to be honest, i've been struggling lately - to keep my mind off of the 'what ifs' and to find the same confidence i had before. i know this is part of the normal struggle, but it makes me feel weak. i've tried to decide where i want this blog to go now that i'm not updating every other week with my treatments, and when i posted honestly about how hard this all really is, there was an overwhelming response of those of you who have experienced it yourselves. so, i will continue to share my experiences, and be more honest than i've ever been....

i've done a lot of reflecting on why i'm having such a hard time lately. maybe it's because i've been doing a lot of planning for the future, and i still have that moment of pause when i think 'what if?'. those moments are much less powerful now, but it's still there. or maybe it's because i'm always surrounded by cancer...in the support group i facilitate, in the work i'm doing professionally, and in the online forum i'm a part of. or, maybe it's because i'll be a year out of treatment this thursday - a huge milestone for us hodge warriors. or, maybe because i'm simply human. a human who's experienced something huge, life changing, and powerful.

it's ironic, because i spend most of my time telling other cancer survivors that this is normal. i say it in my support group, i say it in my work, and i say it in almost every paper i write for school. but it's really, really hard to tell it to myself. to feel that this is normal, and that it will all pass, and you know what? i'll probably be fine. it's just been so permeating lately, more so than usual...and that's distracting.

recently in my professional/student role i have been doing a lot of work on detecting psychosocial distress in cancer survivors (anyone who has been diagnosed). the topic came up about those who are harder to pick up because they minimize - they tend to say everything is just fine when it really isn't. they take on a heroic role because they feel as though they have to keep everyone going. somewhere in the middle of this discussion, i realized i knew a whole lot about these people without having read much on them in the literature. then, i paused. i'm talking about myself. i'm talking about all of us who say we're fine because we're afraid of letting those who love us know our fear...because we're afraid if we say it out loud it will define us...afraid of the stigma of needing help...afraid of being weak. such a pivotal moment for me to be able to step back and realize where i'm at, what i still need to work on for myself, and how i need to give myself a break....

having cancer has brought such a richness to my life, to my relationships and to my career. i feel lucky to be alive every single day. i'm so passionate about the work i'm doing that it never, ever feels like 'work'. i've reached the point where i no longer question whether or not i'm capable of doing work with the oncology world - i know i am. having my moments of being sad and scared only make me more connected, more aware and more dedicated to help others through this. but, i'm going to have scary days, and sad days. mostly, though, i have good days - excellent days, even. the best days of my life.

the other day in class we had to write mantras for a mindfulness exercise. i wrote 'may i accept the journey for what it is, not what i think it should be.' i have a lot more work left to do, but i know that realization is the first step to acceptance. so, onward with the journey...

3 comments:

  1. I think they call it the "new normal." Life after cancer is never the same as it was before. So, adjustments are made and life goes on with the "new normal" as they like to call it. Do you think that with everything going well you're almost afraid of jinxing things by going on with your life? I think we've experienced a little of that and I try to remind myself that we must all live in the moment and enjoy things as they happen and not rush ahead and worry about the "what ifs." So much easier said than done.

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  2. absolutely. it's a tough battle to fight against the 'what ifs'...i do well most of the time, and they clearly don't stop me from living even a little...but, they exist, and they can be brutal.

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