Bring out the champagne! Dr. Siegel officially pronounced me to be cancer-free as of last week. There is a lot for which to be thankful this holiday season, and I’m looking forward to starting 2014 with a clean bill of health.
As I celebrate however, I have a lot on my mind.
I have spent the past five months with a singular identity: Cancer Patient. By necessity, I have been dependent on others. But it’s not mere dependency – I haven’t even had to make my own decisions. Someone else has decided what I eat and where I go, how I get places and my schedule. I have pretty much decided what to wear by myself, but that’s about it. I fell into the Cancer Patient identity pretty easily – I was too sick to protest. When I think back on those terrible summer days, I am grateful for the people who took over my life and functions so I could concentrate on simply breathing on some days. Now that I feel well, and the label is gone, I have to re-learn how to be a fully functioning, forty-something adult who is responsible for herself. It feels a bit daunting, though when I think about it rationally, I know I’ll be fine and back to normal in a pretty short time. I do, however, think it will be a new normal. Cancer has changed me in ways I can’t yet imagine as I work to get back to myself. I really hope I will be able to keep the best of the lessons I’ve learned and get the bad stuff out of my head.
The love and support I’ve received in the past five months is overwhelming in its depth and breadth. My friends have taken me into their hearts and their homes in fuller and more meaningful ways than before. My relationships are changed in wonderful, beautiful ways and for that I will forever be grateful. I don’t have to name names; they know who they are.
The singular most important lesson I’ve learned has to do with patience, but it’s really beyond that. I have learned to meet people where they are. I control myself and only myself, and in general other people are most often doing what they feel is right, even if it feels wrong to me. It’s not my business to tell others how to live when all of us are just muddling through, doing the best we can. That alone has made me a calmer person and I hope to keep that lesson handy as I move more and more into the “real” world beyond cancer.
For now, however I have five more weeks until my husband and children meet me in the U.S. To ring in the New Year. There will be a lot to celebrate when they arrive, and even more when we head back to Tokyo in early January.
There is more writing on this topic to come, but for now I want to thank you for sharing my journey. I’m thankful and grateful for your company. Onward Ho!