Oh good, writing just became hard. There was something protective about writing vulnerably with cancer. Cancer was a shield, big bold letters that read “You Cannot Judge Me.” Or at least, it felt like that because what kind of person is harsh on someone struggling through illness?
Well, things are about to get a lot more real. I’m in recovery right now. Read: recovery, not recovered. There is a major distinction between the two. For one, I’m not sure a person ever fully recovers from cancer. At least, not in the way I might have traditionally thought about recovery. There is no going back. There is no returning to who I was before disease. I know that sounds harsh, but it isn’t meant to be. I don’t want to be the person I was before cancer. I want to be better. That is the vision I have set for my life and that is going to be a process, for sure.
Second, I still have a lot of physical healing to do. I was sick in bed today likely because I have pushed myself too hard over the past few days…Weeks? Month? Either way, sitting here at eight weeks post radiation I still get tired easily and am just now starting to think about regaining some of the strength and endurance that I enjoyed pre-treatment. It only recently occurred to me that I’m not actively fighting disease and that I am free to pursue whatever level of physical fitness I want. So I am.
To test it out, I went for a hike. I got over confident and maybe a little excited and started to jog, then run downhill. The music was going and I was clipping along at a good pace and then BLAM! I ate it pretty hard and did a full body plant in the dirt. I had tripped on a rock and I just don’t have the strength to stabilize and correct my body alignment at more. As I lay on the ground assessing whether or not I was seriously injured and how long it would take to drag myself upright again, I felt incredibly grateful for the fact that I was even there at all. Through the pain I began to smile and then I started to laugh while staring up at the sunny sky. My body hurt but I was so damn glad for it.
If part of physical recovery is pain, so too is emotional recovery. I was really hoping I would get to sail through this part because I worked so hard to process things and to be present throughout my disease. Turns out trauma is still trauma and I get to unpack all that week by week with my counselor. Writing that last sentence makes me cringe because there is such a stigma around mental health and even I feel a twinge of shame around my weak spots and broken bits. But my God if I’m not willing to stand here in the fray and be the one to raise my hand and say that I need help sorting it all out.
So this is where the real work begins. There is a big part of me that doesn’t want to do this. There is a bigger part of me that wants to be clean and healthy on the other side. So forward I go, picking apart the scary and sad things that happened and rewriting the narrative I’m telling myself about them. I know I can’t change what I went through and I know there are no promises about the future. That last part, the part where I now know that life is not as shiny and untouchable as my early thirties had seduced me into believing, is difficult. I believe my task now is to make peace with the past, find strength in the present, and have courage and faith in the future. So the writing is hard because the work and the recovery are hard as well.
And that’s okay. I can do hard. At this point, I’m kind of an expert.
Give ‘Em Hell.