This has, undoubtedly, been the hardest year of my life. Its not even a question. It’s like the past 3 years of hard things were just the warm up laps and this was the final sprint. It has flown by and has felt like a really bad dream… a total blur. Even though I received the best possible news after my surgery, my cancer journey will never be over. Cancer will always be something I think about – it will likely haunt my everyday life and the harsh reminders that a lot of people aren’t so fortunate as I am will always remain.
Since it finally feels like I’ve rounded the corner in a lot of ways, I feel like I can breathe and reflect on what the hell just happened. I met with a therapist for the first time last week and she helped me make a little sense of what I’m feeling. Treatment, starting immediately after diagnosis was such a strategic time – a list of goals and things to cross off. There was no time to process or think things through, it was just go, go go. Meet with the leaders, make the plans, have the procedures, face all of the fears, beat the cancer. The days moved like molasses, but the weeks flew by. One thing that remained the constant through the year has been the growing stack of silver linings I’ve found myself collecting.
I get new boobs! Okay this one is totally a double edged sword. I would have never asked for new boobs before this – I was perfectly happy with what God gave me. They weren’t anything special, but they were mine, they fed our son and they always fit into clothes well. But I guess if I had to go through hell and back, I’m going to enjoy getting a new set at no financial cost (physical, emotional, spiritual costs are through the roof though – trust me.)
My support system. I have said this before, but it begs repeating again, and again, and again. I could not have gotten through these trials without the incredible people supporting me. These people, from those living my sometimes batshit crazy every day, to those I haven’t seen in years who’ve hunted down my address to send a card. Every single bit of encouragement has made a difference for me.
The kindness of strangers. When tragedy strikes, I think for the most part people seem compelled to help – I know that’s how I feel. Most of the time though, it can be hard to know the right thing to do or say… and that makes sense because it can be awkward, or difficult. During my treatment, there were only a handful of times someone actually came up to me in public and approached me with kind words and usually a hug. I won’t ever forget these people or those times. A few of them got me through, just when I needed it most. If I can ever give advice about this it would be: if you feel compelled, always say something or reach out, or at least catch someone’s eye and smile. I promise it will be so meaningful.
My old habits. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt thankful for my old habits. I’m talking about things that started loooong before I got sick, things that were easy for me to implement because I was use to them.
- Healthy eating. I love to indulge in the bad stuff just like anyone else, but for the most part – you can find me eating healthful, home cooked meals versus fast food and junk. Cooking has always been a very important part of my life, thanks to my parents and so, when I was told that a healthy diet is incredibly important for cancer patients… I didn’t have to freak out.
- Exercise. I’m no athlete, I can’t run well and playing sports isn’t my idea of fun… but I do like to get a good sweat in and genuinely enjoy moving my body. This was vital during treatment and now as I’m moving into the next phase – I can’t wait to get back to normal exercise now that my restrictions are lifted!
- Value of self care. I have always paid special attention to self care – treating myself to a massage, soaking in the bathtub (so many times a week), and seeking advice from professionals when I need it. Mental health is just as important in this journey as any other part.
New Perspective. This honestly goes without saying. All of the “big problems” we use to have no longer seem so big. Some of them still suck, but I’ve learned to think harder and be more selective about what to spend my energy on.
Last but not least…
Signs. I am so thankful that I’ve kept my mind and heart open to receiving signs from my dad. I absolutely cannot believe I made it through this without him here physically. Luckily, I see him every day – sometimes smack dab in front of my face, sometimes in a memory or a song… but it never fails, I always feel him near me. I feel so lucky.
This has by far been the hardest year of my life. It has pushed me to the edge, left me at rock bottom and pummeled me down. It has also shown me so much good, and for that I am grateful.