I'll be honest, it's been a pretty emotionally challenging time following my treatment. While I expected to be elated that my treatment was over, what I encountered is that EVERYTHING about my treatment was over. The constant attention. The focus. The community I visited weekly that nurtured me. While it took some time, I grew accustomed to these things and without them I was disoriented. Despite still being surrounded by so much love and support, I was on my own and living the life of a survivor.
All of these feelings were validated during my "survivorship" appointment with my Doctor a week ago. During our time together she spoke about the sense of loss that follows treatment and simply acknowledged that without the focus of the weekly treatments, our emotions have freedom to finally express the trauma we have experienced physically and emotionally, and the importance of exploring different channels of support (which I am). And it was at that moment that I realized I am in mourning. Not just over the loss of who I was prior to my diagnosis, but the loss of the community that I came to love and rely on during my treatment.
As I emerge back into the world, I find myself wanting to just let people know that I have in fact survived cancer. I keep saying it repeatedly almost as if I'm trying to convince and remind myself. Not just what I overcame, but the gifts that I discovered. I've felt overwhelmed with the past but uncertain of my future. I've felt paralyzed as to how to move forward, knowing I am forever changed.
Just as I was experiencing this realization of my journey, a dear friend (thank you Jen Spencer) introduced me to a book called Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussan. In it she talks about the "Waiting Room" where we are in between the past of our old selves but have not yet stepped into our new world order. It's safe in the Waiting Room and kind of hard to leave. Let's just say my waiting room is super cozy, so I could totally relate.
It just so happened that the author was speaking at my local bookstore so I went to hear her. She shared her own story of loss and the amazing transformation she has experienced in her life by having the courage to really honor the grieving process and start to re-engage with life in a conscious and loving way. It was inspiring and reminded me that perhaps the best is yet to come. It allowed me to peak beyond the window of my waiting room and see a future where I was living a life of love, vitality, light, grace, ease, mindfulness, creativity, joy, laughter, and spark! All the things that I discovered at such a monumental level throughout my treatment were manifesting in this future life but without the illness and treatment as the catalysts. I also learned through this book, that while I was now technically deemed a survivor, my survivor self had served its purpose of protection and I could let her go. With her release and shedding of that armor, I can start to feel the tickle of my new regenerating cells and sprit percolating with light, sparkle, and shine as they begin to breakthrough into the world.
Now the challenge is having the courage to open the door into this new life and all the uncertainty that it holds. But if there is one thing that this year has taught me is that I can do uncertainty. Or rather I can BE with uncertainty. It's in the uncertainty where being present (if we allow it) provides the space so we can discover new things about ourselves that we never knew possible and live from that place of faith and grace. And for me, that is kind of the adventure.
I had Christina sign my book and we spoke for a few moments. She looked straight in my eyes and said "I see that sparkle in your eye, and you need to know that you have such unbelieveable gifts waiting for you and a beautiful life ahead that you can't even imagine." I was overcome by her empathy and validation. But more importantly, I believed her.
And so I start with small steps forward knowing that they will become bigger, more frequent and fuller everyday.