Life After Cancer Feels Like This

Life after cancer feels like this: A giant wave has come into the beach, a tidal wave, it has crashed onto the shore, altering everything in its path. Some things have been destroyed forever, others swept out to sea, still others remain, changed for ever. The water has pulled back out to the ocean and the sea is back to its normal rhythm, breathing in and breathing out, the tides shifting, pulling, releasing. Looking out on the sea, you might think that it is the same and has always been this way, but I know better. For I am the shore that has been scooped out and changed and I do not recognize myself. And although I sit quietly at the shore, I know another tidal wave could come.

Life after cancer feels like this: there is a long tunnel going down into the earth. I do not know where it is leading, but I have set out on the journey. I am relaxed and whistling. I carry a very small backpack, just some water and a few healthy snacks. I have been heading downward for a long time. I do not know where this trail is leading me or how long it will take. I walk this trail alone.

Life after cancer feels like this: I can’t remember the last time I cried. I can’t remember the last time my vagina was juicy and wet. I can’t remember the last time I felt desire or the last time I came. My skin is dry. My scalp flakes. I feel as if all the moisture has been sucked out of my skin. Is it the instant menopause? Is it chemotherapy? Is it the Arimidex I take every morning, a tiny white pill which roots out every drop of estrogen and ferrets it away?

Life after cancer feels like this….a dull flat plain of steadiness. I don’t care about things I used to care about. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I don’t sweat anything. I am relaxed about my life for the first time ever and it feels….so unfamiliar. Have I attained enlightenment or am I depressed? Everyone around me is anxious about the economy, about money, about how to pay the bills. I could be. You could even say I should be, but I am not. It is not that I am in great financial shape. Like everyone else, I have felt the pinch. But I am filled with a strange optimism and hopefulness. I trust that things will be okay. Or to be more precise: that I will be okay no matter what happens. I do not dread a recurrence. I do not lie awake at night wondering if the cancer will return. I accept all things…things that chafed at me and kept me up at night for years before my sickness. Doug says I am at peace. But I wonder. Have I just forgotten how to feel? Am I numb from medication?

Life after cancer feels like this: I am cooking a meal and bringing it over to Tovia who had a baby, making food for Bonnie and Scott whose parents just died. I give a ride here. I make a phone call there. I am thrilled to be able to return just a small measure of the kindness that so many others gave to me. I cannot pay back all the generosity that was offered to me, to us, and so I pass it forward. And in doing so, I know that I am part of an interconnected web of life. I treasure that knowledge. It is something that I never knew before.

 Life after cancer feels like this: When I give a writing prompt in class, my own mind is blank and empty. There are no words. I wonder what has happened to me. The creative driver that has been my lifetime companion is gone, and I cannot force him out. I wonder if I will ever write, ever commit to a major piece of writing again. This is sad to me, deeply sad, but another part of me just shrugs and says, “Oh well, maybe that part of my life is over.”

Life after cancer feels like this: My eyes are closing. They are so heavy, I cannot keep them open. I pull over on the freeway. I close the computer and lay down on the couch. I crawl into my bed after a morning spent teaching. I wait for sleep to take me. It does. I wake up groggy and reach for chocolate…only the best, dark, organic, full of omega 6s, good for you chocolate, medicine. It takes me a good half hour to feel alive again. But then I am energized and move lightly through my evening.

 Life after cancer feels like this: a million questions and only a lazy search for answers. I long to sit in silence again, to be still. I wonder what the rest of my life has in store and how long it will be. But I am not moved to do anything. I am just living my life as it is. Wondering if this is enough. But not really wanting anything more. I am no longer grasping; I am just sitting here. Breathing through my days. Grateful to be alive. I wonder every day. Is this all there is? Is this the end of the road?



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