The other day I was sitting in my office, crunching numbers and pushing paper – needless to say, my brain wasn’t all that engaged – and I started thinking ‘If I could be anyone, in the entire world, who would it be?’ I scrolled through a few beautiful actresses, rich people crossed my mind, people who have never had cancer came rushing in too but I kept coming back to the same person – me. Now, that is not a normal reaction to this question that I’ve been asking myself for as long as I can remember.
I've spent many years wanting to be anyone skinny (I’m still kinda partial to this one), I spent years wanting to be someone rich, someone famous, someone who has traveled the world, someone who wasn’t afraid of needles and a variety of other people who had traits that I admired or characteristics that I envied. It was only the other day that I realized that I wanted to be me.
I have said this before, but although getting cancer at 26 wasn’t exactly what I would call ideal, I have learned life lessons in my twenties that I may not have learned until my sixties or maybe even ever. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t buy into that whole ‘Cancer is a gift’ garbage, I am just trying to turn a horrible situation into a manageable one.
I think Keith and I have done things that we wouldn’t have done otherwise, like our Christmas trip to NYC. I think we would have put that off, until ‘next year’ and India – can you believe that I’m going to India? I fly out on the 14th of February to Delhi along with 11 other cancer survivors to volunteer for two weeks. I am at a point in this cancer business (I just can’t write ‘journey’ anymore) where I am starting not to feel like a cancer patient anymore and I feel as though it’s time to look to the future rather than the past. I am hoping that this adventure helps answer the 'now what' post-cancer question. I would have never gone to India if I didn't have cancer and didn't have questions that needed answering. It is way out of my comfort zone and I have never been more excited about something.
I am also not trying to convince anyone (including myself) that my life is problem-free or perfect. My weight is at the forefront of my thoughts every day (who am I kidding, it's every minute) and this one breast thing is really getting old. I don't have much money and I owe a lot to the student-loan department of the government. I went to school for six years for three degrees in education and I am working in accounting. I still rent an apartment and aspire to own a home one day. I live four hours away from family and am missing out on our nieces and nephews milestones.
I am alive. I have surrounded myself with the kind of people that you only hear about in books. Keith and I spend the majority of our time laughing at cancer, at each other, and together. I have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and a pony tail. Although not having a breast does give me some anxiety and only feeds into my body image issues, I am starting to accept that it was part of the price that had to be paid to stay alive. I am slow moving on the reconstruction train but I am getting there.
I am surrounding by such generous, kind, and caring people. Your know, after coming to and supporting my benefit in 2011, friends and family dug deep into their pockets again and donated to Team Katie at the Relay for Life and then when I told people I was going to India as part of my survivorship business, they stepped up again to get me there. Saying 'thank you' seems like a slap in the face compared to how I feel. I am so grateful to so many people.
Some days I struggle, some days the bone pain from chemo that still ails me puts me into a recurrence tail spin and other days I can convince myself that it's the chemo still working hard to fend off any potential cancer. I have the regular challenges that everyone has - too much to do - not enough time - need to organize - don't eat this - gotta eat that - and so on - but I think I have just learned how to compartmentalize what's important, what needs to be dealt with, and what can wait. I've learned to take a deep breath and work my way through life. I feel like I am living and not plowing through each year so I can get to the next like I used to. I can safely say that I am enjoying each day.
Keith and I have made a slight resolution. We have decided to do what makes us feel good in 2013. I am very hard on myself for just about everything and many times it results in guilt and struggle. I'm going to do my best to reassure myself that I am enough. As I have said, 2011 was awful, 2012 was great, and if this pattern continues, 2013 is going to be spectacular!