It's Our Turn: I'm grateful for my cancer journeyThe doctor called this week and said, “You’re clear, no more cancer.” After hearing news like that, you’d think I’d be walking on clouds and sharing wise, cotton-candy-sweet sentiments. But something else has settled into my heart – it’s a strange mix of denial, guilt, relief, humbleness, and a sense of being lost.
By: Amy Chaffins, Alexandria Echo Press
The doctor called this week and said, “You’re clear, no more cancer.”
After hearing news like that, you’d think I’d be walking on clouds and sharing wise, cotton-candy-sweet sentiments.
But something else has settled into my heart – it’s a strange mix of denial, guilt, relief, humbleness, and a sense of being lost.
I’m certainly happy and relieved that I beat cancer, but I’ve brushed the face of mortality and it’s not pretty.
Why did my body respond to radiation and chemotherapy treatments, but other people’s didn’t?
After being so forward-focused and trying to stay positive through treatments, I’ve now allowed myself to reflect on what I’ve been through and it’s sad. I can’t believe I did it.
I wasn’t sure I would be around to celebrate Christmas this year and here I am sad and guilty and grateful.
Everything has changed.
Now, I find myself thinking a lot of things are trivial and silly and I’m very protective of my time and energy and where I spend it.
I see the “little things” in life now and notice details, things like the way a chickadee flitters about, landing on a puffy pine bough gently bending under the fluff of fresh, sparkly snow, and the way my mom’s hands are always so soft and pretty.
But at the same time, I see the “big picture” and that it’s things like the chickadee and my mom’s hands that really matter in life.
I don’t care about shampoo commercials or getting cat hair on my pants.
More than ever I care about staying in touch with family and playing fetch with my dog.
But I still feel lost.
What can I expect from my “new normal” way of life?
Why have I been given another chance?
I was prepared for bad news from the doctor, not, “You’re clear, no more cancer.”
I know how to handle the bad news now. I know what to expect from cancer treatments. I know what chemotherapy will do to me.
This week’s good news is tripping me up – where is this guilt coming from?
Well, this is what I’ve come up with: I have been humbled to my core and I’m drowning in God’s blessings and I don’t know how to handle it.
I hesitate to even type this: I think I’m grateful for having experienced cancer.
Isn’t that awful? Who in their right mind is grateful for having cancer?
Before you write me off as nuts, let me provide some insight into what cancer has taught me:
• Nothing is forever. It’s likely cancer will get me in the end and I’ve accepted that. In the meantime, it’s impossible to take anything for granted. I’m just now realizing I’m one tough chick.
• Prayer works. I truly believe it was prayer and my guardian angels that healed me. How could all of that positive energy and all of those well wishes not have an impact? God and my angels – my grandparents Emil and Claire, my Auntie Carol and my sweet dog, Sadie – were there to listen to my prayers and fill my heart with hope.
• People are amazing. I’ll never be able to explain how grateful I am for my co-workers, friends, family, community, doctors and nurses. Out of nowhere, people sent well wishes, hot dishes, cards, money, flowers, gifts and prayers. Their compassion and caring is still incredibly overwhelming. People are truly amazing and I will pay it forward. I promise.
• No more “should.” It’s my new philosophy on life. I won’t use the word “should” anymore. I will go to visit my sister-in-law this spring. I will go to a dude ranch with my sister. I will spend more time reading in bed.
• My husband is my hero. Just when you think you couldn’t possibly love someone any stronger, try cancer. He was by my side every step of the way – through the funny moments and truly horrendous parts, too. As long as he was there, I feared nothing. He kept me going and focused. He never showed fear and he always made me laugh. Our relationship has evolved to another level. I know I wouldn’t have survived without him.
So, I’ll continue to wade through this strange mix of denial, guilt, relief, humbleness and sense of being lost, I suspect it’s part of my cancer journey.
• • •
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.