Relearning to Balance

After cancer treatment, I was so relieved to be finished with the demands of treatment and ready to put the experience behind me. Ironically, I found myself feeling uncertain with what my future held. I was so fixated on a magic number… five years. In my mind, if I could just get five years out from treatment, I would be magically cured and the cancer would never return. Well, it doesn’t really work like that. While I’m sure it’s common to be concerned about whether the cancer will come back, it’s important not to wish that time away just to tick days off the calendar.

While I feel I was provided with a lot of information and support from my doctors during my treatment, once treatment stopped it was a whole new world. Now what? Cancer is a major life-changing event, but in hindsight it also brought with it the chance for growth. As hard as treatment can be, I’ve spoken with many other breast cancer survivors who have said that the experience led them to make important changes in their lives. There’s a commonality we “survivors” share, and I think we take time to appreciate each new day just a wee bit more than we had before.

Sometimes the thoughts are clear, and other times they quietly seep into my consciousness. Last night I was riding my bicycle with a group of guys along A1A, Florida’s coastline. It was warm out, but there was a breeze. The sky was bluer than blue. My friend, Mark, was singing a silly made-up song reminiscent of the Beastie Boys and the other guys were all laughing along. In that moment I was acutely aware of my good health and happiness in a most visceral way that’s almost inexplicable. After a health scare, I think some people learn to take better care of themselves, physically and otherwise. I was always active, but now I’m very aware that it’s important for my health to continue to exercise – but I’m also mindful of the fact that life is too short not to have a little slice of cake or piece of pizza… or that post-ride beer every now and again.

I can say with certainty that I’ve been able to draw from my experience to become an advocate in some capacity. When treatment ended, I don’t know if I expected life to return to the way it was before I was diagnosed with cancer. It took time to recover. I have permanent scars on my body and I suppose emotional scars from going through so much. I don’t know if others think of me differently now – or if I view myself in a different way than I would have had I not gone through cancer. (I’m guessing probably so.)  It’s not so much “getting back to normal” as it is finding out what’s “normal” for me now.

It’s a delicate balance for me, living in the moment but also needing to have something to look forward to. Living only “for today” doesn’t allow me to think or plan for the future, and that isn’t a healthy way to make your way through life – you need a balance of both forward-thinking and being in the present moment. The future may be uncertain for all of us, but I remind myself often of the following quote and try to live by it each day.

Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.

-- Joseph Addison
 

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