Post cancer treatment is a hopeful, scary, amazing, maddening, frustrating, encouraging, soul crushing and soul stretching time! For me it is spent trying to figure out how to live fully every day – not just in the space between scans. It is attempting to give myself permission to plan and schedule events, trips, concerts – to have faith that the longed for trip to Maine can be booked!
I have to admit – I’m not always very good at post cancer! In fact, I am pretty horrible! During treatment, as a cancer patient, I knew what to do – fight with everything in my arsenal – mind, body and spirit! But after treatment – after they stopped pumping poison into my body through a small hole in my chest my understanding of how to act, react and behave is left wanting. “Post-cancer–treatment-me” often looks over my shoulder to try and catch sneaky, cheating cancer before it has a chance to pounce! “Post-cancer-me” is very imaginative and not always in a good way!
Post-cancer-me uses language that non-cancer-me doesn’t typically use – OK well I sometimes do, OK I do more than I should! You know the words – the ones of the four letter variety! Let’s be real – they have a place! I have heard it said that there are times when “shit” is a perfectly acceptable theological term. I say Amen to that!! And before a scan is one of those times!
This time of post cancer makes me mad and grateful all at the same time. What if this is the time when post cancer becomes active cancer again?
This was the week of my scan…three months after my last one. During the first part of the week I was handling my fears how I imagine a healthy, mature adult would react – by remaining calm and reassuring to self that there is no need to worry or to fear. But then the voice inside my head took over – the one who screams things like, “You know it is going to be bad, right? Did you see the way your doctor looked at you while he was scheduling your scan – there was pity in his eyes? Did you notice that people are mentally removing you from their Christmas card list because they know – I mean primary peritoneal cancer twice do you think you are a miracle?!” and “Your lab keeps smelling your breath – labs can detect cancer, you know!” That voice is unreasonable – maybe I just have bad breath I want to yell back! I hate that voice! She is whiny, demanding and so very needy! But she does have something to teach – each and every time she starts screaming in my ear there is a lesson – and it is simply that you can’t control what you can’t control! Easy, right?!?
I try – each time a scan is scheduled to remember the lesson from before – to let go of my anxiety rather than to give into it. I work hard, really hard to get to a mental and spiritual place that will allow me to stand in the face of uncertainty. It is why I write – writing is how I process and cheaper than therapy!
I ALWAYS fail but maybe that is OK? Perhaps the darkness has important lessons to teach too. That only by allowing myself the opportunity to be submerged beneath the weight of all the “what-ifs” am I able to move through the fear – much like Moses and crew had to walk through the parted waters of the Red Sea. Sometimes the fear and dread are just too big to move, to go around, under or above. I have found that sometimes I just have to acknowledge those difficult emotions as I journey through the land of low light and vow to self that I won’t stay in that space. I am just passing through – it is a temporary destination – that place of darkness.
To those who love me – thank you for your willingness to give me space to do this difficult soul work. I know, or maybe I don’t, how hard it must be for you to watch – to want to fix it while knowing that you can’t. It is a solitary journey into the inner spaces of my soul but know this – I feel you lifting and carrying me and I love you for that and so much more! I am blessed with amazing family and friends!
Now for the REALLY good news – scan is clear. NED – NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE! Praise God – for continued health and the abundant lessons of darkness – but do they have to be so hard?