It has been my habit to set a few select New Year’s resolution each and every year since I was five or maybe six. They have varied between the mundane (lose weight, save more money, etc.) and the interesting (say yes to every new opportunity) and most years, I keep them – if not for some of the year then for all. This year, I struggled a bit when examining my life and trying to determine what new goals I might set for myself. Some, like “lose weight” seem so inconsequential anymore – not because I couldn’t stand to lose some weight (never did quite master that aspect of life – ha, ha) – but because I have cancer and having cancer changes your perspective on everything. What I weigh no longer takes up an iota of my mental space – there are so many more meaningful things to focus upon….
But what? What, in light of my current status, do I want to change as I move forward in life? It took me some time and a good deal of self-exploration, but I’ve landed on the following (it took longer to explain than planned – sorry for another long post!):
Patience: the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. (2) an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay (3) to have patience with a slow learner (4) quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: to work with patience.
Having cancer affects you both in deep/meaningful ways as well as in small/subtle ways. It impacts you physically as well as emotionally. The way in which you walk through the world changes, even if just slightly. People respond to you differently once they know what you are going through/have gone through and thus even long-standing relationships are inexorably changed.
Adjusting to the new reality takes time and patience. I have never been a patient person.
Everything about my treatment, recovery, and subsequent “re-engagement” with life went too slowly or not as I had planned. I had little tolerance for things did not go well and that lead to great anxiety and stress. Whether my impatience has been the result of a desire to be done with the task/treatment at hand as soon as possible or is perhaps based on that sense of fear which underlies any cancer diagnosis, “will I have enough time to heal and return to a normal life?” I don’t know. I just know that being impatient did not aid my healing nor change much of what happens and only made me feel frustrated and as if I had no control over anything.
Thus, this year, I vow to release all the anxiety that comes with thinking the world should run on my timeline or in a way that I can control and practice patience with whatever comes my way.
Peaceful: (adj) untroubled by conflict, agitation, or commotion: quiet, tranquil (2) of or relating to a state or time of peace (3) devoid of violence or force.
These past three years have been much too turbulent. Since 2017 when I was initially diagnosed my life has been full of new experiences, new terminology and a new way of life – none of which I asked for, wanted or ever thought I would experience. The first year was most chaotic as I was consumed with diagnoses, surgeries, and treatments all the while dealing with the emotions (mine and others’) associated with a late-stage diagnosis.
The second year was one of healing, which took much longer than anticipated but which did not allow me to return to what I remember as normal. The difference between the old me and the new presented many challenges. While healing physically, finding a solid emotional base upon which to stand was difficult and I was often off-balance.
And now, as I approach my third year post-diagnosis, I am as well as I can be, but I am no less settled. Thoughts of “when” my recurrence will be official sit in my head all day/every day. Making plans well into the future is difficult as I fear I will be “recurred” then and unable to enjoy whatever vacation or event is in the making. I hold myself back from any discussion or planning of future events as I do not know with certainty how I will be when the time comes. I am living in fear.
I cannot be fearful and at peace at the same time, and I so want to be at peace…so in 2020, I vow to release the fear and be at peace with whatever happens.
Being Present: Ah, this one is more difficult to define and experience. It is the power, the beauty and the meaning of now and it is all any of us really have. To being present is to be fully engaged, involved, and attentive to what is happening with your body, mind, and heart. To be present is to live fully, to give to others freely and wholly and to receive openly and lovingly.
I cannot say where I’ve been these past few years, but I can say that seldom was I fully present in any given situation. Always, questions about “what’s next?” took me out of whatever I was doing to a place in the future – a place I thought I needed to start managing today despite not being certain exactly where I’ll end up. I had to think about how one thing might impact another and whose future challenges I needed to manage now, before they became an issue…and I had to think about when my next test/appointment was and whether or not “this time” would be the time they delivered bad news.
I spent a lot of time in the past as well, wondering how this came about and whether or not it was something I did that allowed the cancer to form and grow in my body. Could I have been diagnosed earlier had I pushed harder or not waited so long? Did my diet or lifestyle contribute? Was I being punished for some awful deed I must have committed years ago and if so, which one? Always…I was “somewhere else” in my head.
Don’t get me wrong…I was involved with people and enjoyed their company and the events we attended etc. but not fully. A word or a shared experience could take me from the present to the future in an instant and I would linger there for as long as the thought would last, returning to the experience a little less focused and not fully engaged. I felt disconnected to the present and unattached to the future and have thus been floating in a sort of cancer purgatory for far too long.
I want to be part of life again – fully engaged and fully present. I want to experience the now as it occurs and spend my time (physical and emotional) with the people I love and doing the things I love. Cancer has taken enough from me, I will not let it take my “now.”
So, in 2020 I vow to be present – to let go of the need to examine and plan for every aspect of the future or to search my past for clues and reason. I’ll take my chances with whatever comes next knowing I have lived what time I have remaining fully present for every moment.
For it is only in this moment we live and today, I am alive.
Wishing you all a healthy, happy and progression-free New Year. May it be our best yet.