The last line of my post on March 30, 2016 says: “Friday the fight begins for realsies and I’ll be looking forward to seeing it all in reverse with a last day for fighting followed by a first day back at work”, and on April 18, 2017 that day came. Easter Monday night I had this odd feeling in my stomach that I couldn’t quite put my finger on – too much turkey? not enough turkey? pills making me feel funny? Then I realized it was a mix of anticipation and nerves for going back to work.
I’ve been with the same organization for 12 years, how could I be nervous? This should be a homecoming seeing all of my friends and work family that I have missed over the last year. But lots of thoughts kept creeping in like a rogue cloud briefly covering the sun on a beautiful day:
I’ve been out of the game for more than a year…is the work the same? will I be able to do it still? What if I can’t remember stuff now that I should remember thanks to the chemo? Will people see me as still being capable? What if my hair product fails or what if it rains and I don’t have an umbrella and my hair falls during the middle of the day…I can’t put on a hat and a ponytail is definitely no longer an option…
Oh the things that rattle around in your head at 3am during a fierce hot flash! I know most worries are unfounded and I am sure that after a couple of weeks it will feel like I had never been gone. But I have been waiting a year for this time to come when cancer can stop being the centre of my universe and we can turn our focus to the exciting things 2017 has in store and I was expecting to feel excitement and happiness. What I wasn’t expecting were such strong feelings of uncertainty, angst and a loss of identity.
I am reading a great book right now that anyone and everyone that is navigating life after treatment should pick up and read. It is called Picking Up the Pieces: Moving Forward After Surviving Cancer by Sherri Magee and Kathy Scalzo. At the very least I would suggest reading the first 1/3 of the book, because even that small amount is well worth it. As I have been making my way through the book I feel like the authors must be in my head because I am reading my exact thoughts or fears, sometimes word for word. This book made me feel like maybe I’m not crazy and that this transition period is a time of reinvention of self and a discovery of what constitutes a new normal for just about everyone in a similar position to mine.
The Vancouver-based Doctor and author says:
“Cancer shatters a lot of illusions, the illusion of health, the illusion of having control over their lives. Survivors live with a roller coaster of emotions because right next to the intense gratitude for life sits fear and anxiety, even depression because you are not who you were.”
I think this mixed bag of feelings is why I started writing this post on April 18th and have come back to it a dozen times before finally posting today (May 3rd). Oddly this has been one of the hardest posts to massage out and get my thoughts onto (online) paper but I think it speaks to where I am at right now – in a bit of limbo and trying my new self on for size.