Today I am two…sort of. Actually, today is the second anniversary of my last chemo treatment. In one more year, I will be removed from the every-three-month oncology checkups and added to the every-six-month checkup list, which is a very good thing. I am two-thirds of the way through the highest “danger zone” for a Triple Negative breast cancer survivor–the first three years. So today should be a VERY happy day for me…right?
For some reason this is NOT the case. Today, I woke up very happy for my mom…it’s her 80th birthday…and VERY sad and gloomy, otherwise. For some reason, I am feeling “less than.” For some reason, I am sad instead of happy. Does this even make sense?
Whether or not it “makes sense,” it is what I am feeling. So in order to process this bizarre reaction, I have decided to create a laundry list of sorts. Trying to sort through the goods and bads of these past three and half years…hoping that the balance is weighted toward the Goods.
Looking back on the months of surgery, tests and treatment, what I know is that they were the hardest months of my life…the most difficult year I have ever faced. Fear–when I forgot to focus on my loving family, caring friends, and the comfort that God was holding me safe–threatened to overwhelm me at every turn.
I temporarily lost my hair; my finger nails; two of my toenails; what was left of my body after having 4 children (I gained 50 pounds due to steroids and chemo); my modesty (hard to be modest when you’re constantly being poked and prodded by doctors, nurses and technicians); my memory; and at times, even my sanity, sense of humor and self-respect.
I continue to struggle with the loss of normal feeling in my feet and hands; fatigue that at times drags me down; conflicting and sometimes turbulent emotions and fears; skin that looks as if it belonged on a 65-year old instead of the 48-year old woman I am; and aches and pains that send me into terror of returning cancer.
The months immediately AFTER chemo were even more difficult. The confusion of conflicting emotions racing through me was often overwhelming. Trying to find balance and regain life while learning what “normal” was–a feeling the professionals term “finding your new normal”–not nearly as easy as it sounds, let me tell you!
But amazingly, I gained some things much more beautiful than those I lost. I gained a truer understanding of what it is to be “different,” which makes me much more accepting of others in all types of struggles and journeys. I gained a better appreciation for the simple pleasures in life, and now find much more joy in each new day–both good ones and bad ones. I gained a more perfect love for my friends and family. I gained a greater desire to help others in need–especially those struggling to deal with the physical, emotional and financial ramifications of cancer. I gained a deeper recognition of the healing power of friendship. And most importantly, I gained a much more solid faith in my Heavenly Father. My faith is REAL, my God is ALIVE, and I know I walk in His love–no matter how I am “feeling.”
I am confident that no matter what my future holds, these lessons–the things I gained from cancer–will hold true and keep me strong. My friends and family will be there for me, I will continue to feel compassion and empathy for others in all circumstances of life, I will strive to find joy in each and every day. So today, while I struggle with conflicting emotions, I will focus on the Gains–which far outweigh my Losses. Happy anniversary to ME!