Time softens the sharp edges of memory. The harsh feel of stubble on the head, the long red scars, the bone aches from Neulasta, the shuffling post-surgical walk... they hover around the edges of my mind now, written down in journal scraps or facebook posts.
One of the reasons I began this blog was to work through unresolved issues from cancer. It was only six months from diagnosis to final surgery, but the aftermath went on for much longer. Any stressful life event causes fallout, long after we expect it to. It was as if all the pieces in a kaleidoscope had shifted, and were falling around me. I didn't want to shed any of those pieces - home, marriage, family, friends - but I had to find the new pattern. It's harder than you might think.
The past few years were a time of re-evaluation and processing all that happened, and trying to figure out what my purpose is now. (Perhaps entering midlife had something to do with it too). After a final surgery over a year ago, it began to feel as though a chapter had truly closed, on several levels. Along with a sense of loss, there came a sense of renewed possibility. As I worked around the house, ran, went about my life, I would stop sometimes, and look at the sky, so thankful for the ability to see its blue beauty. A verse that seemed to define my life for the past number of years no longer applied; a new one did. The children were growing up. Life was moving on, and I was ready to move with it.
Cancer invaded my life and will always be a part of who I am, but it does not define me. There are some songs that are hard to sing, and every now and then a sudden memory will make me cry, but that's okay. It just means I'm here, to experience the pain and the joy of life. Change comes to all of us, even if it's not in such a dramatic way. What I've learned, if anything, is that it is possible to survive something that looks overwhelming, and that life, in all its beautiful messiness, is a gift.
When I began to lose my hair, I went to my hairdresser and asked her to shave my head. It wasn't empowering; it was grim. My memory is of staring into the salon mirror, seeing a stranger...a bald woman. In my mind rang the words "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised..." I didn't care about any of that. I wanted my hair and my old life back. My hair is back, but not the same, and it took me five years to embrace that. My life is not the same, and I embrace that too. It's about new life that can be even better than the old.