Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beyond Cancer

My blog encourages looking ahead with hope and thinking positive, so it’s humbling to admit how often I find myself looking back, acutely aware of what I was doing this time last year.

One year ago this week, my first chemo treatment loomed. Now, six months of chemo and radiation are six months behind me. My first set of scans and exams show no evidence of cancer. I feel healthy, and unless friends and family are just being nice, I look healthy, too. My scarves and never-worn wig are all packed away. My hair is back and I am active and able to do everything I did before.
Most days, I dare to believe that we kicked cancer’s butt.

 And yet.
The fear of recurrence still loiters inside me. Turns out, the Cancer journey doesn’t end with diagnosis and treatment. There’s a stage called beyond.
The shadow of cancer is not easy to shake.
Last week, a neighbor asked me why I still have the chemo port imbedded in my chest. I told her they usually leave it in about a year, and I purposely haven’t asked the doctor about taking it out. Part of me wants to keep it for the same reason I stowed away the scarves and unworn wig—hoping as long as I own them, I’ll never need them again.
“Ah, bargaining,” my neighbor said.
As soon as she said it, it hit me—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Bargaining is one of the stages of grief!
I keep thinking I should be done with grieve and fear by now, that I should have arrived at acceptance. Then I remind myself that grief has no timeframe—it is not a straight line.
I have a newfound respect for every cancer survivor striding beyond cancer to their five-year cancer-free anniversary.
How did I never see their courage before or realize they take each determined step with the shadow of cancer still nipping at their heels?