Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year - Happy New Beginning

Yesterday I took the last of my cancer treatment. Chemo has now ended for me. After an entire year of chemo, surgeries, doctors and meds, I can say my treatment for cancer is over.  Now, I will see my oncologist once every three months for blood work and for a discussion of how I feel. Every three months for the next three years, this will be my cancer-screening routine. The months, weeks, days, and minutes in between I will struggle to find the new me and to live my life free of cancer - and as free of worry of its return - as I can.

I have found monthly support groups with other survivors and intermittent one-on-one counseling to be extremely helpful. I practice my mindfulness mediation every day. Focused on the here and now. I search – and hopefully find - what the day provides for me to be as happy, healthy, and in the moment as possible.

I have been told by survivors and my doctors that time out of treatment can be the most difficult. More than once, my oncologist has mentioned this and to “let her know” if it gets too overwhelming. During treatment, your days are scheduled for you. Doctor appointments, treatments, medicine schedules - all meant to fight the disease - are structured for you. Your job is to stay the course, pay attention, speak up, and follow doctors' orders. Once treatment ends and hopefully you are declared “disease free”, your medical team cuts you lose -  in what seems as a quick and cruel fashion -  to rediscover yourself and to find your own path in this new life you’ve been given.

So that’s where I am. Figuring out what and how much cancer has changed me. Whittling away those things that are no longer important to my happiness. Determining how much stress I can handle, how much excursion my body can take, how to deal with disappointment without feeling defeated.

Anyone of us can be gone tomorrow. Today, I’m as cancer free as you are. But those of us who have stared at having no tomorrows have a deeper understanding of how precious each day can be. Living a life satisfied and content. Not taking anything, anyone, anymore, for granted can open up new possibilities and a lightness to how to live a life. 

I look forward to a tomorrow, but I live for today. I breathe deeply and see more sharply. Putting off until tomorrow is no longer in my vocabulary. If you knew me before cancer, you may not understand me as well afterward cancer. But I invite you to try. Be my friend. Listen to my fears without allowing them to frighten you. Just hang out sometime over a beer or a glass of tequila.  

Happy New Year. I’m really glad to be here with you.

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