here’s the thing about not having cancer anymore: i’m not sick, but i’m not well yet, either.
beyond the continued treatments, surgeries, therapies and side effects to my body, the reality of how i am not going to be done with this, not going to just ‘put it behind me’ has settled over me like late-summer Texas heat- blistering and prickly, humidity choking all the oxygen from the air. inescapable.
there’s this rush of gratefulness and light- a renewed energy that comes when the weight of diagnosis is lifted. and then… heaviness. dark, shadowy fears that cry out of your loss, your family’s hurt, your life forever scarred.
where does that come from?
there’s some question about how my long term medications interacted with those i took only briefly, jarring my brain as it struggles to keep up with all the new formulas- possibly the fluctuation of hormones as i shift from one drug to another.
it is likely that this- the unexpected hard of post-cancer- is also the backlash of the last 9 months. the feelings i pressed back and back and back because i had a job to do, now all crash forward at once- like water sloshing in an overfull bathtub. a warm wave of questions and fears and anger, spilling over the edges and spreading across the floor, messy and uncontainable.
or maybe i’m just tired. the body i am left with after gallons of chemicals and counter-chemicals and now cutting and rebuilding is tired. the mind i am left with after focusing on getting well, maintaining some energy for my family, and clutching small shreds of southern christian girl politeness towards those who ask ridiculous questions is tired.
yes, i think all of those are true.
i meant all the words i wrote during and just after… they are not false just because i am tired now. but i don’t really want to hide this part from you, friends. this may be the more real part of being a ‘survivor.’ (side note: i don’t want to be called a survivor, warrior, or fighter. those are great titles from some, but i just don’t resonate with them. you can call me rachel.)
i have met lots of women who are going through cancer treatment, and i have seen this in some of them as well: when there is a job to do, we do it- take the meds, deal with the sickness, maintain our lives and our families and our sanity, do the work to get well again. we are positive- strong- hopeful- focused. inspiring, even. but not much can prepare you for the post-cancer tidal wave. when you are alone with your thoughts again after months of chemo-brain and ‘just don’t puke in front of the kids,’ the darkness is a little surprising- a little overwhelming. the guilt of ‘shouldn’t i feel amazing and go save the world?’ instead of ‘i think i’ll just drop everything to sit alone in the sunshine for a while.’
some people ‘bounce back’ more quickly than others, which is wonderful. but some of us aren’t bouncy anymore. some of us reach the end of our resilience. maybe there’s only so many times our bodies and minds can be stretched to the limit before we stop returning to our original shape… not destroyed, but irreparably distorted.
you know what i WANT to do? write cutting, sarcastic words that feel good going out, but horrible when they land. i want to slip in passive aggressive digs at all the well-meaning hurtful things people say when you have cancer (i’ve gotten some doozies). but spewing every dark and crazy and desperate thought i’ve had, pouring out my emotions like sludgy, rancid water on you- my friends, family, and online acquaintances who have cared for me so well- that’s not good for anyone.
and that’s why i haven’t been writing (or just not publishing what i’m writing). not because i don’t have anything to say, but because i’m still in the middle of it. there’s this human tendency to want to learn the lesson, see the growth, understand the process, wrap it all up in 1000 words or less. but in the middle, it’s dark and twisty and unmanageable. even now, i’m tempted to put a big, fat, happy-clappy ‘yay Jesus’ bow on this… and i just don’t think that i should. you don’t need that- my false front, my pretty picture. you can handle a little darkness from me, right?
so… i’m just going to leave this here and hope you don’t feel like you don’t have to say something helpful, be deeply insightful, or ‘fix me.’ i am broken, sure. but so are you… and it’s enough, even good sometimes, just to be broken together.