Life has a way of speeding by unless you take time to pause. It’s been just over one year since I was released from my last doctor’s care for DCIS. Walking 16 miles to that final appointment is one of my favorite blogs (Walking to the Finish Line). Remembering back to the internal conflict of that final appointment, the lack of sensing direction enveloped me. Additionally, it has been one year to the day when I crossed the finish line walking in the Chicago Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I completed a 39.3 mile walk in two life changing days, and reached my personal recovery goal. But nobody prepared me for life after treatment.
Last week the American Cancer Society mailed a survivor packet to the house, inviting me to participate in the upcoming Relay for Life. A year ago I participated as a survivor for the first time. Instead of watching the opening ceremony from the stands, I was seated on the field with other survivors. Instead of walking around the track with a team, I was part of the parade of purple shirts circling the stadium to cheers and high fives. It was both exhilarating and weird. It was a finish line of sorts and a commencement ceremony into the unknown. I’ve decided this year that I’ll once again join the teams in the stands and cheer for those in purple shirts on the field. Not that I’m denying what happened to me or that I shouldn’t celebrate being a survivor, but that was then and it was what I needed at that moment. Now is different.
If you’ve undergone cancer treatment of any sort, no doubt you have wrestled with the term “survivor.” If you’ve come to the finish line but felt a sort of emptiness despite a huge sense of relief, you’ll understand where I am in my journey. If you are still going through treatment, you’ll deal with finding your new normal in due time. My message is to be patient with yourself. Hit the pause button and to reflect on the new person you have become. You aren’t the same. You can’t be the same. But in some respects, you are better. See you on the path as we navigate our way together.