My parents are owned by a Siberian husky (if you’ve ever lived with a husky, you understand). She is spoiled beyond belief and loved beyond measure. But no matter how much she’s allowed to get away with, she still needs baths and getting her into the bathtub takes cajoling, muscle and a healthy dose of determination on the part of the two human seniors. This is no small feat since the love that my parents and their circle of friends showered upon her has resulted in making the husky, well, even more husky (she’s currently on a weight loss journey). But once she’s been bathed and toweled off, our husky does something curious: she always returns to the bathroom to sniff the tub and faucet, as if she’s trying to make sense of what happened to her.
I find that I’m a lot like her. You would think that after the anxiety associated with my cancer diagnosis, the fear of the treatment and having to endure chemo and radiation, plus a year of Herceptin infusions, I would want to stay as far away as possible from anything cancer-related. In the beginning, that was the case. References to cancer seemed to be everywhere I turned, and I struggled to avoid the thought of it. I was terrified by the ambiguity of my situation.
But now that treatments are over, I find myself drawn to cancer information. MW/MSW (my clinical counselor) calls it reprocessing, as I explore how I’ve been affected by this journey. I run the gamut from viewing it as the most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to me, all the way to the biggest blessing I’ve ever received. That’s a pretty wide spread! The more daylight that comes between my final treatment and my current place in time, the more curious I become. Cancer is no longer the “big C” for me, it’s a word in lowercase. It’s as if I’m dipping my toe into the lake where I almost drowned, and slowly moving deeper, determined the tread the waters with me in control this time. Not like the crazy roller-coaster ride that I had the first time.
Things are different now. Not only do I have perspective, but I also have a sense of peace through mindfulness. The impetus to begin a meditation practice was one of the gifts I got from cancer, and it has affected every aspect of my life. I have rediscovered yoga. And I sport a cool, edgy hairstyle that I would have never had the guts to get on my own. Cancer is a familiar concept now, and I want to know more about it, want to understand what happened, how I can prevent it from happening again, and how I can help someone else newly embarking on that journey.