I was going to write about something else for this week’s post until I realized that I had another five-year breast cancer anniversary to share: the end of my radiation treatment.
It had run for six weeks, five days a week — going to the cancer center became a daily habit. But on October 23, 2017, I rang the gong signifying the end of treatment, said my good-byes to the radiation oncology staff and left them with baked goodies.
With 2022 being five years since my cancer diagnosis, I’ve had a number of anniversaries to share this year. What makes Oct. 23 significant is that it marked the end of all the “tough stuff” that people scare you with about cancer. By that date, I’d put the diagnosis, surgery, chemo and then radiation behind me.
Because 2017 had been a miserable year, when radiation was done I thought I could finally take a deep breath. I’d waited for this point in my treatment for a long time and decided that I would lose myself in the spirit of the holiday season.
The problem was, you never really get rid of all your concerns. You release some, but others show up to take their place. I finished radiation…but wait, there’s more! Now I was going on tamoxifen and that brought a whole new set of issues, and yes, fears, with it.
So I spent Christmas season doing my best to enjoy myself but the holidays passed by and left me feeling a little empty. I’d expected a lot out of them and they didn’t deliver.
Admittedly, it was a tall order. After cancer, I tought the world would shine with joy, but that wasn’t realistic. Cancer isn’t the kind of disease you say to, “done!”, brush your hands off and walk out the door. It tags along behind you, if not as the disease, then as its shadow.
Fast forward five years to now…ok, ok, I know what I got wrong back then.
I had felt like life owed me something amazing because it had put me through cancer. I thought I deserved a post-cancer life that was perfect. Of course, it wasn’t. And it still isn’t.
So if there’s something to celebrate, it’s that I learned a few things over the past five years.
This holiday season I’m not going to be expecting things to wow me. But I am going to be enjoying the fact that I am still physically active and working the same university job, expanding my horizons as a new yoga teacher and finding fun ways to spend my time. And mostly, that I have moved past the feeling of anger that I felt about cancer and found some gratitude to fill its space.
I know I keep going on and on about how much better life is when you’re not carrying the burden of anger, but honestly, if I’d known that acceptance would lighten me up this much, I would have done it sooner!