I should elaborate on the title. I'm not thankful for having had cancer, not one bit. It's been frightening and painful and expensive. It's changed my life permanently, in many ways I do not welcome. I don't think I'll ever be free of the undercurrent of anxiety I have about its return (unless, of course, it does come back. I'd prefer another resolution of that issue, obviously.)
Still, now that I have been in remission long enough to forget just how long it has been (2.5 years, which is pretty respectable), I have noticed some positive effects from having survived such a harrowing experience. This may or may not be typical of people who've had cancer. But I tend to think that anyone who's been through a major, life-threatening crisis only to see the risk recede may feel similar relief and euphoria.
I'm not quite sure why I feel so encouraged now, more so than I did four months ago when I stopped the last oncologist-prescribed remedy. Probably it's because it's birthday and anniversary season for me now. I mentioned the anniversaries a couple of diaries back. The birthdays (mine and my older daughter's, twelve days earlier) also provide an obvious milestone against which I can measure my progress.
However it has come about, I am feeling very energized, at least for me. Motivated by seeing ski tracks on local golf courses after the penultimate snow we've received, today I found all three components of my cross-country ski kit. I love, love, love to cross-country ski! But for any number of inadequate reasons, I haven't skiied in ten years. It seems like high time for me to pick that up again.
Have you ever had the experience of returning to an activity after a break from it? Of course, some loss of skill is inevitable. But oddly I've also found that the time away can sometimes provide an opportunity for very subterranean integration to happen, so that when I take up that activity again I understand it differently than before and find it easier to catch back up than might be expected. I'm hoping that will be true for me in this instance; we shall see.
So there's one pleasure I'm experiencing now on the other side: a re-examination of priorities for my precious time, leading to a rekindled interest in pursuing activities or goals I have really enjoyed. Another is the new effort I'm making to reconnect with people I enjoy, but have lost touch with as we lead busy and physically distant lives. In the past year or so, I've sought to do that far more often than I did in the early days of my illness and recovery, and more even than I did before I got sick. That, too, is a sign both of my improved health and my decision to organize and address my priorities differently. So far, I've had pretty good success with those efforts to reconnect, though there's no guarantee it'll continue. Seems worth the time and trouble all the same.
The third novelty I'm enjoying in my post-illness state is a greater willingness to try new things. My latest toy is make-up. To anyone who's known me for many years, that concept would seem very out-of-character. I was adamantly opposed for a very long time to observing the conventions of femininity, I daresay often for very good reasons. For example, there was a long stretch of time--sixteen years, in fact, from the ages of 16 to 32--when I declined to shave my legs. Let us just say that was not a common stance in my social circles, though it wasn't completely unheard of. But at some point I decided it wasn't worth it to me to buck convention to that extent, and so I started shaving. (Now, in post-menopause, the issue is rapidly becoming moot~! Ah, the ironies.)
Wearing make-up, however, seemed to take conformity too far. And so for nearly all of my adult life, I've gone commando in that regard. Maybe some lipstick, if I were really motivated. It just didn't seem that important, and I resented it that men didn't have to worry about it at all.
My daughters are not nearly as resistant as I, however, nor are they obsessive about their appearance. So that softened me up a little. Recently, vanity has started to intercede as well. Thus when I was lucky enough last month to win several bottles of skin care potions at our local health food grocery, I figured I'd take the plunge. Now I'm typically spending about 5 minutes a day putting on toner and foundation after using a special face cleanser.
Not too many people have noticed, really, though my husband did say the other day he liked the shade of lipstick I was wearing. That's good, I guess; better not to be obvious, for sure. But it's not a bad thing at all to tend with care and appreciation to this well-lived-in face and body of mine, I've decided. It might have to last for a lot more years than I was thinking, and that's pretty good incentive to me for change.
How about you, whether you are currently in treatment or not? Have you a renewed zest for life, or are you still just too tired? What have you done for yourself since getting sick, that you might not have tried before?
As always, the floor is open!
Also--please join me after the jump for a special announcement.
Monday Night Cancer Club is a Daily Kos group focused on dealing with cancer, primarily for cancer survivors and caregivers, though clinicians, researchers, and others with a special interest are also welcome. Volunteer diarists post Monday evenings between 7:30-8:30 PM ET on topics related to living with cancer, which is very broadly defined to include physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive aspects. Mindful of the controversies endemic to cancer prevention and treatment, we ask that both diarists and commenters keep an open mind regarding strategies for surviving cancer, whether based in traditional, Eastern, Western, allopathic or other medical practices. This is a club no one wants to join, in truth, and compassion will help us make it through the challenge together.