How long will it be before I stop thinking of myself as a cancer patient? I thought once chemo ended I would be able to breathe again, return to being myself and all would be ok. I had no idea how wrong I was. The nurses and doctors prepare you for treatment. They tell you every side effect; what to look for, what to do. But there is no guideline for how to resume your life after treatment ends. I was never told I would find comfort in chemo; how it would make me feel like I was actively fighting this disease. Now that it's over, I feel untethered and vulnerable. Everyone in my life is back to their normal routine but I have no routine to return to. Relationships have changed; some have disappeared completely. My old life is gone. Who am I now?
I suppose some would be excited by the idea of beginning anew...a clean slate on which to create a new life. But those lucky individuals do not have the fear of reoccurrence looming over them like a cloud that blocks the sun's rays. I cannot feel the warmth of life when the chill of cancer lives in my head. I know that is where it resides and I fight everyday to keep it at bay. Sometimes I'm successful, other times not so much. On Saturday I was driving with Sean and the sight of him, the young man he has become, brought me to tears. I couldn't hold back the fears, the frustration, the anger. Seeing me fall apart must not have been easy for him but he put his hand on my shoulder and said, " Mom, I have known you for 17 years and there has never been a problem you couldn't solve." I don't think I have ever loved him more than I did at that moment. His love for me along with his need for me to be ok were enough to pull me out of the abyss. It is up to me to figure out how to stay clear of it.
Life is messy, cancer or no cancer. Everyone goes through their shit. Some stay in it and some come out the other side stronger and better for having had the experience. I'm hoping to be in the latter. I know I need to give myself time to heal, both physically and emotionally. I know as the years pass and the scans are more infrequent I will move on from this. One day I will stop thinking that I lost 2 years of my life and see it as my rebirth. I'm just not there yet.