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Pre versus Post Cancer

 

I have often heard “cancer changed everything”.   I thought this was just one of those cliché’s we all hear, but is clearly an exaggeration.  I’ve been dealing with chronic, debilitating illness for 19 years,  so how could cancer change my perspective of my life?  Yet it did.  My life is clearly divided by my before and after “battle” with cancer.

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, stage 3B, in July of 2013.   In the 5 months it took me to go through surgery and chemo I was reborn, like a fetus  to birth.  In the 6 months it took me to recover from the poison that saved my life (chemo)  I went through  infancy, a newborn awaking to life.  In the year that followed I started my new childhood, experiencing everything for the first time with new eyes, a new soul.

Now, I stand on the brink of the new me in adulthood, and I feel much as I did as a small child – scared, but fresh, excited at what could be.

My before and after look like this:

The old me,  a stay at home mom, plodded methodically through each day, completing the mundane tasks of a “home maker” in auto-mode.  I felt little, my mind numbed to make it through each day.

The new me, still a stay at home mom,  writes a grocery list, then sits down at her sewing machine or laptop, thinks “I don’t really need to shop.  I think I’ll sew, or write or draw”.    I go for days at a time without doing the tasks I used to find essential.   I feel incredible pain at times, but amazing joy also.  I am far from numb.

 

The old me crossed off each day on the calendar before she went to bed, breathing a sigh of relief that the day was over, dreading the start of the next day.

The new me goes for days at a time without crossing days off of her calendar.   The new me isn’t always even sure what month it is, let alone the day.   The new me, ironically, no longer dreads the dawn of each day.

The old me knew what was happening tomorrow, the day after that, the week after that, each obligation weighing on her mind, sucking up valuable energy.

The new me often doesn’t know what is happening tomorrow, the next day, or the day after; nor does she care.   One day at a time is sometimes  more then she can take!

The old me was organized and proficient.   The old me knew each upcoming deadline, each concert, game and practice, and planned accordingly.  She always had a meal ready, clean clothes for each activity, a ride to and from, gas in the car.

The new me sends her children out in a dirty uniform with no shame.  The new me is not prepared for tomorrow’s early rehearsal or practice, has a car on empty and, more importantly, is not worried.

The old me never stood up for herself, never felt deserving or good enough.  The old me felt I deserved to be treated badly because I was inferior, lacking, weak.

The new me.  The new me stood up for the self she was, not the self she thought she should be.

The new me was born on July 17th, 2013, although I wouldn’t  know this until much later.

When first diagnosed with advanced stage cancer, the old me agreed to a difficult treatment regiment to “battle” my cancer.  I did so to humor my sister and parents,  but, quite frankly, what I thought was this :

“ I won’t make it through all 6 treatments, but each one I make it through will help with my prognosis.  When I fail I’ll switch to the easier form of treatment. “    Failure was a forgone conclusion in the old me’s mind.

Through each round of treatment though, the old me grew weaker and weaker.  By the 6th round of treatment, the old me had given up; the old me failed.  The old me could no longer shower, let alone get through another round of chemotherapy.  The old me was dead.

Yet with each round of treatment a new me grew, percolating under the surface of my bald head, pulsating behind my lash less eyelids, unseen to me or anyone else, like an alien ready to spring forth and command attention.  Stronger and stronger she grew, and, by the 6th round of treatment, the new me was a presence to be reckoned with.

March 31st, the day my now ex asked for a divorce, began my “journey” through what I can only liken to the toddler years.  I had no idea that standing up for myself  would give birth to the new me; the me that had been lurking inside, waiting for it’s chance to shine.

The new me went into a manic frenzy of activity after that pivotal day .    Each day without him was new; fresh.  She tackled long neglected projects around the house.   Each project left her stronger, more vibrant.  She took up yoga,  each class bringing her  greater strength and flexibility, and peace of mind.  She began writing,  each piece bringing  clarity. She went back to sewing, creating new pieces, practicing old and new skills.  She began therapy, telling her stories, imagining new possibilities.

The first year my feelings were raw, just like a toddler’s.   I never knew, from minute to minute, what my reaction would be.  Something that made me cry one day made me laugh the next.  Something inane would send me into a tantrum, while something important would leave me mellow and at peace.

And now I am left with a raw, gaping, emotional wound that is my new self.  I now mark each day hour by hour.   Today my 5:00 hour was fine, but by 6 I was a mess.  I feel out of control.   The old me will not go quietly; she wages all out war with the new me.  The old me stands aside, like a disapproving parent, saying “fine – try it your way.  You’ll see what happens.  Tsk, tsk tsk”, always in the background, refusing to step aside.

Today, the new me, with no concrete task to tackle, no room to paint or light fixture to be replaced, nothing to distract it, is now forced to take a long look at who she is, who she will be, who she wants to be.  The new me feels like the new graduate from college, thrown into the “grown-up world” and now aware of how woefully unprepared she is.

The new me often wants to cry.  She can’t stop thinking “wouldn’t it be easier to be back on chemo and not have to face all of this”.    Lately,  the new me longs for the days when  all she  had to do was drink some water and eat a banana; the days when nothing more was expected of her then to stay alive.

I fear the new me is here to stay, whether I like it or not.  I have to graduate and join the adult world; the living.  I’m just not sure how.

Is there a temp agency for this?

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