I had a lovely talk with my sister-friend Lynn V. last night. Lynn and I have been friends for 25 years and she is definitely more like a sister. When you go through more than half your lives together, you get to know each other pretty well. We have been through thick and thin together, laughed, cried, done crazy stuff, lived together, experienced losses, births, shared many important milestones and life-changing events. My dear friend Lynn is a very wise and wonderful woman and last night she shared some of her tremendous wisdom with me. Although we are 5,000 kms away from each other, at opposite ends of the country, we will always be in each other’s lives and we are never more than a phone call away. Life might get crazy busy but I know she’s always within reach.
I was sharing with her the good news of my liver not getting worse but still feeling upset at having to deal with the effects of increased steroids and immunosuppressant meds along with the long-term side-effects associated with them. I was feeling sorry for myself about the changes in my appearance, the loss of what I used to look like, the loss of my old life, the loss of my old self. I was complaining about the constant daily reminder whenever I look in the mirror or catch glimpses of myself in a window, that I am going through this, that this past year is not a distant memory, that it is still ongoing.
Who am I now? What will life be like after all this? Not that I plan on dating anytime soon (definitely not a priority right now) but the thought occurs to me – the way I look now, all the physical changes, the uncertainty, what I’ve been through, what might still happen???? These are all unknowns that infiltrate themselves into my psyche. At times, this past year seems so distant, so surreal, like treading through water or walking through a thick fog. As a coping mechanism, I feel safe in the fog, I know what I have to do right here right now, I know how to be a fighter, but truth be told, I am afraid of what my world will look like once the fog lifts. It’s quite the dichotomy. On the one hand, I’m anxious for all of this drama to be over with, but I’m also scared of what life has in store for me (the good and the bad).
Having this image of a cancer patient/survivor reflected at me constantly, reminding me of my life-threatening/life-changing journey, weighs heavy at times. At the best of times I am a very impatient person and I find that as soon as I receive good news from my doctors, I tend to want to rush the recovery process and just move on to the land of ‘normal living’. (I might be strong and positive most of the time and have glimpses of ‘enlightenment’ but sometimes, I still have moments of just wanting to scream - AGH!!!!!)
Here is where Lynn’s infinite wisdom manifested itself and made me have a huge light-bulb moment (sorry Lynn for screaming at you!). She pointed out that perhaps I need to go through this period of being constantly reminded of my journey in order not to forget what I’ve been through, to slow down, that I am still healing, and need to take care of myself during this recovery process. Perhaps still looking the way I do will remind me that I am on this journey for a reason and I need to focus on accepting, shaping and letting my new life blossom (whatever that may be). This is it, this is my second chance, what kind of life do I want? Perhaps this journey will provide a new path, new dreams, new possibilities which I never could have foreseen would it not have been for these challenges. Do I really want to go back to my old life as if nothing ever happened? How in the world could I ever forget, or want to obliterate all the lessons learnt over the year? I have changed, both physically and as a person, so why would I want to ignore whom I’ve become or am becoming?
I need to stop living in the past. I must remain in the moment, be in the present, in the now and concentrate on healing myself as a whole. I need to make room for a new future to unfold as it should. Pushing aside what this journey is all about would be denying all the growth I have done as a person. We are our experiences.
So yes, I might be upset about the way I look, but as Lynn said, it might simply be nature’s way of reminding me to stay focused on what matters right now and be patient. Perhaps there is a reason for all this that has yet to manifest itself. Yes, patience, I know.
My doctor is great at getting me through the medical and physical side of this journey. I do my best at remaining strong and grounded on a daily basis to get through the hurdles and challenges, but my friends are the ones that keep me in line emotionally and remind me of the big picture.
Talking about the big picture, I have a wall of photos in my bathroom commemorating all my favourite activities (my old life) – me skiing, kayaking, hiking, climbing mountains, snorkeling, camping, biking, paragliding, sailing…. But I think I should remind myself of the biggest accomplishments yet such as my stem cell/bone marrow transplant and surviving this year. I should print and frame photos of me during my transplant, smiling during chemo, hanging out with my friends, enjoying the small victories, hiking up a mountain 6 months post transplant. I’m not saying I’ll never go back to enjoying the outdoors like I used to, but I should be proud of my accomplishments this year alone!
Thank you Lynn for helping me realize this and for reminding me to remain opened to new possibilities and have faith in destiny. Yes, like you said, and as my mother used to say, “Things happen for a reason” and I need to go with the flow, follow the path that is opening up.