FINDING THE BLESSINGS
My doctor told me that six weeks past chemo seems to be a sweet spot for their patients. It’s the time when they’ve been told “things get better.”
Last Friday marked the six-week mark post-chemo. I thought I’d been doing well, until this weekend… when in a very inexplicable way I found myself feeling more like, well, me.
I didn’t realize how much I didn’t feel up to simple things like cleaning my house, until all of a sudden that’s all I wanted to do. I didn’t realize I was still in a constant level of brain fog, until it started to clear some. (There’s still some brain fog, and its entirely possible its just part of my personality now. But only time will tell on that.) I didn’t realize I had a level of sadness, until I felt a level of peace.
In that peace, I found myself taking stock of things that are actually blessings that cancer has brought to me. Sounds weird, right? Cancer brought blessings? What?
I brought me a deeper knowledge of the love all around me. Relationships I already had have deepened, and new relationships have been forged. The way people have rallied around me, and continue to rally, has humbled me to a point I don’t have words. Life takes a village, and I had no idea mine was truly as huge as it is. But now I know. And my gratitude knows no end.
It brought me faith. I already had faith. Living through a pandemic strengthened my faith, but NOTHING like being diagnosed with cancer did. GOD is more at the center of my life than ever before. I’ve heard Him speak to me in my heart. I’ve heard Him in every card, text, comment and hug. I’ve learned of others talking to Him for me, and I’ve been moved by other’s prayers. I’ve seen Him move through my life, and I have learned to quiet myself and look for Him in my moments of weakness.
It’s taught me how to better interact with others going through a life-altering medical diagnosis. Or just through a hard time. I’ve never been good at that. I’ve always been a little uncomfortable. When do you show sympathy? When do you become a cheerleader? When do you pretend nothing is wrong and try for normalcy? The answer is… always. To all of these things. And it’s completely possible to do that. I’ve experienced others doing this for me, and I’ve learned from them.
I’m going to be someone who sends random thinking of you cards. I’m going to be someone who puts together care packages. I’m going to be someone who texts someone randomly with just, “I’m thinking about you.” Because all of these things have just meant so much to me. And I never considered any of them before this.
It’s taught me I can do hard things. Prior to this, my goal was to avoid needing medical anything. The thought of IVs, surgery, procedures, etc. all just struck me with fear. I couldn’t handle it. No way. No how. Nope. Can’t do it.
Ahhhh… but I can. And I have. And I will continue to do so as needed. And I learned that not only could I do it, but I learned how pain fades. I learned how to go through it, to get through it, and to keep fighting for a better day to come.
I learned I don’t have to do it all. I learned how to delegate. I learned how to let others do for me. This might have been the hardest lesson of them all, and it’s one I am STILL learning. You can argue it’s one I’ll be learning for the rest of my life, because I’m just so naturally independent. But I’m better about it. It was a lesson I needed to learn, and hopefully it’s made me a better leader.
I discovered support groups are the best and worst thing at the same time. Leaning on and learning from other women dealing with the same diagnosis has been, and continues to be, a huge part of getting through every side effect, treatment and procedure. It’s also at times been terrible for my mental and emotional state as I find myself empathizing and feeding off others fears and negative turns in their fights. I’ve had to learn how to disengage when necessary, and to put myself first.
Finally, a big thing for me has always been to be someone others can rely on and lean on. I’m a listener. I want to help others. And my husband will be the first to tell you, I’ll do that to a detriment of myself. I’ll pour from my own cup until it’s empty.
Through this, I’ve been forced to know when to say, “I can’t.” I’ve been forced to know how to step back and say, “Right now it’s about me.”
There’s a very delicate balance that I think we all struggle to find, and I am still struggling with it. But I’m better. Cancer blessed me with the knowledge that sometimes you have to say, “I can’t.” and that that is ok to do. Not only is it okay, its necessary.
So here I sit in what I am calling “half time” of my treatment. Chemo and surgery are behind me. Radiation and continued therapies to minimize the chance of recurrence are still ahead of me. I’d be lying if I said I’m not a bit nervous about what’s still to come. Because I am. But I also am far wiser and stronger and hopeful than I was almost seven months ago when I got the call. It’s nice to take a moment and reflect. It’s nice to actually feel maybe I am a better version of me.