I’m starting to feel better again after finishing the fourth (and final) round of A/C. I’m noticing it is taking me longer to recover in between rounds but that I am also getting more used to the ugly chemo side effects. It’s amazing to me that the human body can adapt to misery as well as it does. The awful chemo feeling is becoming the new normal and my mind doesn’t panic so much around the nausea, fatigue, body aches, vision and skin changes that march in after an infusion. I’m not saying I like it, I don’t, but I am saying I’m somewhat getting used to it and that provides a level of calm that is welcome if not unexpected.
I wanted to reflect a little bit on where I am with my journey at this moment. It has been such a fast paced change that I almost feel like a blur of color smeared across a still background. On my walk the other day I thought about what I would have been doing a year ago and the difference is almost unrecognizable. The intense fatigue and all too frequent illness have put me on the sidelines in the last few weeks. I have vast fields of barren plains where work, exercise, family and friends used to stand in. Now, too often tired or hazy, I watch a lot of life happening around me rather than particpate. It is wild to know just how little I can do and to think about how “busy” I used to be.
This sounds a little bit like self-pity but it’s not. It is just a recognition of the changes and a reflection of how startlingly different things are now. Change is part of life. I think we all have had that experience where life was punctuated by “before” and “after.” Where a moment, or series of events, spun us into a different reality. An alternate universe where we can no longer travel back to the same unburdened mindset from before. I used to grieve those losses deeply. My parent’s divorce, for example, was always so hard for me to move beyond because I was so stuck tending to the scar created by that sudden shift. The event consumed me, and I kept revisiting it in my mind like a demented time traveler.
But now, I recognize the cancer break as part of the journey. Looking back, I see where the road forked and I began traveling in another direction. The ground under my feet is just as solid and stable as it was before, it’s just new territory. It’s a place where the shadows are a little longer and a bit darker, but likewise the light has been more intense and more brilliant as well. I have been humbled, I have been afraid, I have been overwhelmed and upset. I have also been deeply loved, supported and lifted up. On balance, life is better now than it was. Even when I hate being so tired and sick. Even when I can’t remember that this awful feeling will pass. Even when I hurt and want to quit. Overall, that suffering has built me up and I’m breaking through clean on the other side.
For someone like me who is always searching for purpose and meaning, cancer has a real sense of humor about it. It has tested every weakness I have, chief among them is patience. It has called my insecurities to the table, forced them to stand in the light and been seen. I have revealed myself here as the person I am: impatient, scared, hopeful, sick, exchausted, inspired and most importantly, free. I have had to give myself the gifts of patience, kindness and hope out of necessity in order to make up for what cancer has attempted to take from me. I’ve had to learn to be a student and a teacher in my own life and the lessons are far from over.
In the end, I know I am grateful for this gift. I am grateful for the people locally and literally around the world with whom I have connected. I am grateful to be forced into this new perspective, into accepting what I cannot change and growing through cracks. I’m gobbling up all the good and also honoring the not-so-good because that’s important and meaningful and worth it.
I’m becoming a different person. I’m falling in love with my husband in new and different ways. I’m reconnecting with my children and my family. I’m a living a life that has purpose, even if that purpose is a small connection with a new friend through my writing.
So thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for lifting me up. Please know that I’m okay even when I’m not okay. I just want to be able to share it all here because I believe in connection and I believe vulnerability is the vessel that brings us that sacred gift.
Do good things in the world today and as always:
Give em’ hell.