Monday, March 25, 2013

Moving on from the dreaded C word

Sorry for the delay in posting anything. But for the record, it has taken me a really long time to write this post. It's hard to put in words the emotions you face post cancer. Actually it's hard for me to put my emotions into words in general. And it's hard to describe these emotions without sounding like a whiner. So bear with me.

Life is finally starting to get back to normal. I am working out regularly and am starting to feel my strength coming back. Condo renovations are moving forward and I am hoping to move in within the month. And I recently took the GRE in preparation for hopefully going back to school soon. On the outside, my life appears to have gone back to normal. This brings me to the question of the hour, the same question I have been struggling to answer here recently. How do you really move on from a life altering experience such as cancer?

It's a daily struggle, a concept that most survivors will probably struggle with for a long time. You go about your day as normal and as best you can, but it's always in the back of you mind. What if they missed just one cancer cell? Will it come back? You look in the mirror and the reminders are there everyday. You're bald. You now have the battle scars. It's easy to wonder "Will I ever feel normal again? Will there ever come a day when I WON'T have cancer on the back of my mind?" 

I have the best friends a girl could ask for. But for a while I struggled even talking to them. It seemed like everyones lives were moving forward....marriages, wanting kids or having kids, new boyfriends or crushes, new careers, etc. While I used to be worried about those things too, my life seemed to be going in a totally different direction post cancer. Most days it still feels that way. It was and still is sometimes hard to listen to what is going on in everyone else's life and not get a little jealous and down. All I can think is "I would kill to have those have a normal wake up and be worried about a fight I had with my boyfriend last night rather than will the cancer come back and will I live to forty?" Don't get me wrong, I love my friends and am happy that they have such great things going on in their lives. But it's still hard to look at a lot of them and wonder if my life will ever be normal like that again.

I recently went out with some friends for a night out on the town. And I had a great time! For the most part, I felt like a normal 20-something year old out having fun. But in the back of mind I was constantly second guessing myself. Can people tell I'm wearing a wig? Did she just look at me weird because she knows I had breast cancer? Do my boobs look weird? I even had a guy ask for my number. This is laughable in itself because those who know me know I am a TERRIBLE flirt. But hey, I guess I did something right. Anyways, he asked for my number and all I could think was what if we actually went out on a date? How would I begin to explain my history with cancer or why I am wearing a wig? Or should I even tell him? When is it appropriate to have that conversation? It's stressful and downright scary.

Then there are the days when I hear people complaining about stupid things and I just want to scream at them! You're worried about THAT?? Its hard to feel sorry for people complaining about the little things going wrong in their lives when you're worried about something as dreadful as cancer. I know I shouldn't feel that way but some days I just do. I worked throughout chemo and I would have days when I would take care of rude, complaining patients and I would just want to say, "Really? You're carrying on about your big toe hurting while I'm taking care of you after having a chemo treatment a week ago? I'm exhausted and hurting but you don't hear me complaining so suck it up!" Ok so the big toe thing may be a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea.

It would be so easy to get down about it. And I can completely understand why so many cancer survivors feel the need for therapy or group support after cancer. It's hard to go back to a normal life after dealing with something so huge. Cancer leaves physical scars, but it also leaves emotional scars. To sum it all up, it's just hard. But life goes on. And for anyone who may be going through a similar struggle, I'm here to tell you that it does get better. You just take each day as it comes and do it with a smile on your face. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it sucks. No, you are not doing it alone. There are others facing similar struggles. I always try to remember that as bad as I think I may have it some days, someone else always has it worse. In the grand scheme of things, I lead a blessed life and can be thankful for the days the Lord has given me already. Everyone has something going on their life that they wish they could change. So mine just happens to be that I had breast cancer. I have faith that there will come a day when I will wake up reassured that it is gone for good. It doesn't happen over night. Cancer is an awful, terrible thing. But after facing it, you get a new outlook on life. I now try to never take anything for granted. And I am more aware now that I only have one life, so I should live it to the fullest, because you never know how long it may last. It's taken me a little while to learn this, and I'm still learning to apply it daily, but you should only worry about the parts of your life THAT YOU CAN CONTROL and LET GOD HANDLE THE REST. You can't control when you'll die or how but you can control how you live your life.

I like to put at least one picture in every post so these pictures are for inspiration. I ran a 5k the other day in the mud! Only two months after finishing chemo. (For those of you who may not know, chemo takes a BIG toll on your strength) It was freezing and one of the most physically demanding things I have done in a long time. (HUGE thanks to my brother for running it with me and being so supportive the whole way!) I had never done a race before cancer and now I have. I have even signed up for another 5k a month from now. And I have been working hard at the gym a few times a week! After being so weak from treatments, I now more fully appreciate a strong and healthy body. So in some ways, cancer has changed my life in a positive way! This is proof that it does get better!