This past year as a breast health educator was intense. I spent hours on the roads, in different towns and counties, homes, colleges, workplaces, churches and more. I talked to kids from 6 to 96. We talked about family and cancer and its impact on us all. We looked around the room and realized that everyone has been affected by it one way or another. It could be a neighbor, a sister, an aunt, a father, a brother, a co-worker, a boss, a friend, a doctor, teacher, or any one of us. I met many friends along the way and enjoyed learning to make pie crusts, recruiting for prayer shawls, distributing wigs, and lots of hugs. I talked to healthcare workers and patients, survivors, and friends that are losing the battle.
I learned more about me along the way. I put hours in day and night, weekends whether there in person, on the phone, in an email, a blog. . . and I listened. I listened to thoughts and concerns many of which we all share. I had breast cancer and now it looks like a blip on my radar screen but at the time I was not sure what the outcome would be. Today, I am not anymore sure of that outcome. I say each day I am a survivor and count it as such. One day, one year, it all adds up. No longer is the 5 year mark the target goal as I have seen those that are 20 years out and are back facing the same demon. What does that impact have on me? DO I worry when I have an ache or a pain and do I wonder if I will be here five years from now and how many of those days will I remain cancer free? The answer is YES.
I work with patients every day and reality sits in front of me, good and bad. I don’t fixate on the bad and do many things to sidestep those thoughts. I have a bucket list that I just keep refilling. I may even be a little more reckless with my life and step out to do and try things and experience life as I never would have before. I was just happy to be alive after it all. Vanity was not an issue. No prosthetics or implants for me. I look at my body and see the damage that has been done. I recognize the uneven flow of my clothes and the ravages that my body has gone through. I don’t dress or undress in the dark but I am aware of the image in the mirror. I often need the reinforcement that I am still loved by those closest to me as life has taken on new meaning. I HAD BREAST CANCER, I HAD SURGERY, I HAD CHEMO, AND I HAD RADIATION. I was tough and I am not sure I do not have that same resiliency now nor do I care to find out. I consider new options and I get the whole plastic surgery angle, as you see the changes and often don’t even recognize who or what you have become. I know I am older as I walk the track to exercise and see the kids passing me by and jumping the hurdles. I have no desire to even try as all I could and would do is hurt myself -of that I am sure.
Is it the chemotherapy that makes me search for the words I want to use at times, is it my age, and is it anything related to my mom having Alzheimer’s? As I inch closer to the big 60, I realize I am reaching a different stage in my life. My focus and energies and priorities are different. I don’t have to be at the top of the heap but I do appreciate being a part of the group. I want less than more, clutter is close to a four letter word for me and I want to simplify my life in every way. I don’t love planning activities and meals, I love to go visit my kids but getting to there and back is a bit more troublesome than it used to be. We took an 8 hour day drive down to NC to see my son and his wife and bring grandkids home for a week and then turned around and took them back the next weekend. We were spent! I travel to go see my kids as their lives are busy and full but I also travel to see my in laws as well so we are stuck in the middle and holidays can be quiet and lonely with everyone off in their own directions. The phone rings sporadically as each kid (adult) checks in. Sometimes we have lots to discuss and sometimes it is about the deer in the backyard or the new birds at the birdfeeder. No longer do your kids live in the same city. Ours are working, independent and doing well but all over the country and in fact outside of the country.
I don’t look at the glass as half full or half empty just that it is there and what remains to put in it. Has my life given any value to others, have I made an impact on anyone else’s life? Do they remember the good things about me or bad, do they remember my triumphs or my mistakes? Did I love as much as I could have, did I give to others as much as I had, could I have been better? The importance of my life is what. . . and what has it meant to others? You lose friends along the way and hold them in your heart, but even the memory fades. Is my direction the same?
By no means is any of this depressing or oppressing, it is -just what it is. The reason for my thought process and looking for the direction and reason for where I go from here is what the focus remains. The empty nest, the career, the marriage, the goals are all changing. I have wants and needs and goals and desires and what my pocketbook can and will allow. I enjoy kayaking on the river and laughing with my grandkids. Can I and will I work towards a better and healthier me? What am I willing to do to get there? Will I continue to read and find enjoyment in the reading or will I go back to writing and find another outlet.
This aging process is a challenge just to see that you are not quite on the same playing field as you once were but then you also realize that you wouldn’t go back if you could. Your sage wisdom may only be good for you as there aren’t too many lining up to hear it. I laugh at myself and with myself. There is more to laugh about. I cry more intensely be it a commercial, a movie, or over other’s injustices and pain. I am more anxious about the unknowns and yet I step up each time and find great satisfaction in pursuing them and conquering those fears.
Tomorrow brings new challenges, new concerns, and new issues. I have to reach and meet the day. It does no good to hide from it or avoid it. My smile is my determination to win, win by making the day the best it can be and enjoying what I have been blessed with. This day may change it all but for my moment now, I am content and I am happy. Life is too short to squander away those precious moments and there are too many others that may need you in their life for even a fleeting moment as you smile while going through the take out line for your ice tea or in opening the door for the person behind you or sharing a treat that some took the time to bring to you. These are the moments that add up to what life is about and as a dear friend of mine would say, “OH FOREVER!”