Well, as my 164 interferon treatments come to a close (that’s one year), I feel like I’m making a transition back to the “normal” world.
This article pretty accurately summarizes my feelings.
I fear that my cancer will come back. Every mole looks new. Was that there last year? Is it changing? Is that bump in my mouth cancerous? Was that there before? Are my lymph nodes a bit swollen? I assure my physicians I’m doing monthly skin and lymph node checks, but really I’m doing it nearly every day whether I want to or not.
I feel isolated and “special” all at once. I know everyone has a big experience or story that defines them, and no one experience is bigger – it is just different. Despite this, every time I’m in a room the voice in my head screams “Do you know what I went through this year?” “Do you know what it took to get me back to this place appearing and acting normal?” “Do you know I’m not normally this slow, I’m quick and clever, or I was before cancer.”
Because of my large skin graft scar on my leg and lymphedema I will never feel comfortable wearing shorts again. I am upset because I took this for granted. And then I feel shame – because I am able to walk and run and still have a limb, I should be more grateful.
I am hesitant to move forward. Do I go back into my crazy work schedule I had before cancer? Is that maybe what caused my cancer? How do I maintain my “zen” cancer lifestyle that was filled with quiet walks and naps? How hard do I push myself to get back into shape? Where is the balance between living my own life and contributing to society in a meaningful way?
I am more confident about a few things. A gratitude journal really helped me to pinpoint what meant the most to me this year and what made me happiest. Spending quiet time with my husband and dog. Visiting with friends who make me laugh, teach me something I didn’t know or ruminate on big topics with me. Learning new skills outside of my work, like cooking. Cups of tea. Classical music. Tidying the house. Reading blogs. Riding my bike or cross country skiing on a nice day. Reading a good book. Peanut m&ms.
I know things that I used to think were important, that are absolutely not. Making sure everyone likes me and thinks of me as “nice”. Wasting my time on shitty people. Trying to lose the “last 5lbs”. The amount of effort this takes is out of proportion to the results. The same applies to training for half marathons with such intensity – stupid. Finishing a bad book. Fussing over marks and workplace feedback – useful to help me work better, however not really relevant 5 years from now.
I will continue to update periodically, please feel free to contact me at any point by commenting or sending an email! In the meantime, Save Your Skin appropriately launched their “I’m Living Proof” campaign and website for those living with melanoma. I would encourage you to check it out!