Sometimes you do get a long period where you can be fooled into thinking that your life is not changing. But the change is always happening whether it is building up incrementally like tectonic plates slowly grinding away or whether it is a sudden burst of love, marriage and babies, a sudden burst of accident, tragedy and disease like a full on earthquake. Life is change. Always.
Friday morning. My last morning at the cottage. It’s 5:30 am, and I’m getting picked up at 7:00am. It will be a car ride through the country and then a bus ride into the city and then a pick up by my husband and a ride right to my door. That’s what it will take to return me to my old life. I’ll walk up those steps, up to the same apartment and balcony where I spent my winter of cancer treatment. I am lucky that I had this chance to come here to Camp Comfort, to step away from that winter of treatment and gain that from-a-distance perspective on that cancer experience. I am lucky that I had that experience meeting my next animal companion and of falling in love again. It brought new life into my daily existence. My new love and I will be separated for a while as I go through the last of the treatment, but we’ll be back together again after the summer ends and before the cold winds start to blow. Whatever happens next I will have the comfort of a cat purring in my lap to help me get through it. Next winter will not be the same, not for me. Not for Pingu.
And in the meantime my husband will be waiting for me to come back to him and we will begin our lives together again. We’ll fall into those long time daily routines that comfort the both of us. Hi Honey, I”m home.
I’m more ready to go forward now. I could have known my lab results last week, but I’m more ready to know them now that I took control and stepped away from being the mere pawn in their medical schedule. I’m taking control of my life again, but at the same time I’ve given up on my old expectations of getting my exact same life back. It will be different from now on no matter what. But that’s okay. “Life is change.” I always used to say that by definition, life is change. And I’ve been through a lot of change already. And there will be more change coming up after this. Some predictable change. And some unexpected catastrophic change. My friend’s house blew up. “When you least expect it, expect it.” I used to say that too. Nobody expects their house to just blow up. But it can happen. And catastrophe only happens when you least expect it. Sometimes in life you do get a long period where you can be fooled into thinking that your life is not changing, but the change is always there whether it is building up slowly increment by increment like tectonic plates grinding away. Or whether it is a sudden burst of love, marriage and babies. Or a sudden burst of accident, tragedy and disease. A full on earthquake. Life is change. It does not stand still. Even if you can’t see the land actually moving, that land, life, does not stand still.
I’ve grown older in the past year. I would have grown older whether or not I got cancer. That’s just life. I’ve been growing older year by year since I was born. I liked being a child. I hated being a school kid and a teenager. I thrived on being an adult even though most people would say I started that stage of life far too young. It suited me, right from the start I was far happier being the young mother than I had ever been being the school kid and teenager. Those school years were the worst years of my life and I was mightily relieved to leave them behind. I shall be glad to leave this cancer treatment year behind too.
I would not say that either of those ‘trials and tribulation’ parts of my life made me a better wiser person, or made me happier in any real way.
The “bright siders” will tell you that cancer is the best thing that happened to them because after diagnosis and treatment they now have this whole new appreciation for their life. According to them life is better than it ever was before cancer. Personally I think that is a lot to ask of a disease. I am quite sure there are other less random, drastic debilitating ways to gain an appreciation for the wonder of life.
Other cancer patients never recover from the experience of diagnosis and the treatment itself even if their cancer doesn’t come back. Nearly half of all cancer patients are never able to return to work even if they stay alive and don’t die of cancer.
Some of the women in the cancer group did say that this was the worst thing that has ever happened to them. But they are going ahead and recovering anyway. Although they never mention this in-between option in the cancer support networks I personally think that in fact that is probably the most common experience. Worst thing that every happened to you. Get on with your life anyway.
I would not say this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. But it’s right up there. It’s bad. There was nothing about cancer and cancer treatment that was inherently a good thing in my life. I would have preferred to carry on without having to go through all that I went through this past year. Really my life would have been better without cancer.
But, I can take it. I will survive this treatment however it goes from here. I will go forward into whatever the future holds and I will survive that too. I’ll make the best of it. I’ll take what good I can from this bad situation. There was something to be gained from facing death in a more real and upfront way than I had before. I feel more prepared to face it again whenever it rears it’s head in the future. There was something to be gained from stepping outside of my daily responsibilities and seeing how the wheel of my little world was perfectly able to turn without me as the driving force. I will be more able to let go of being in control as I grow older (or sicker) and start to lose that control at a future date.
These are small things to set against all the physical destruction that I’ve been through.
The biggest gain has been all the new practical and pragmatic things I learned from the medical team around me. Every one one of those moments along the way where I said, ‘this is so good to know, even if you don’t have cancer it is good to know this about how your brain works, how your body works. Everybody should know this, not just cancer patients’. How is it that we get so much health news about odd research break throughs that won’t be available for at least ten years, even if they do work out. And so little news about the everyday discoveries that really can have a positive influence on the way we understand our bodies and our minds, and then go out and live our daily lives in a better way. Catching up basic health information and how it’s developed since I was in the public education system has been a big benefit. But you don’t have to get cancer to get access to that information. Do you?
I would not say that I have this big new appreciation for life now. I appreciated life before. I would not say my life glows with more saturated colours now. In fact, I would say that for the moment anyway it is more grey now than it was before. I am still recovering. I also don’t feel like I’ve discovered a whole new world out there just waiting for this new, re-invented me to step up and be part of it. I honestly don’t feel like I have that kind of energy in me.
I do feel like it’s okay, okay that the world is a bit grey, and oaky that I’m a bit sluggish. This is new. This deep acceptance of me as a lesser being who doesn’t have to strive for perfection, who only has to “be”. I would have demanded more from my life before. Last year I just expected life to deliver more vibrancy, more challenges, more rewards. Now I know that I was wrong to expect that. Demand that. Assume that. I was lucky to have all energy and ‘life force” when I did, I may have it again. I fell in love again! Love came back in all it’s richness and glory for the sweetness of one little kitty cat. But now that intensity is a treat to be savoured, not an assumption to be taken for granted. I would not say that this “new normal” is necessarily is better than living a full on vibrant life all of the time in all ways. But it’s still a good life. It’s still a life worth living. I can adjust. I’m ready to step up and go forward. I can do this. That’s enough.
Dispatched: June 14
End of Daily Dispatches: Epilogue to Follow June 15