Monday, 27 December 2004
Today is the fourth anniversary of the day I had my ovary removed. Today I can celebrate four years without cancer. And in two days, I go to the oncology gynecologist and get checked to make sure I really am still without cancer. I hoist my tea in celebration of surviving ovarian cancer.
I feel fairly wretched with headache and cough and sore throat, but I'm still here to celebrate. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could just say it: I had cancer. It took me even longer to begin to face what that meant, and to integrate it into my reality. I'm still not sure I'm done with that part. I don't know if I ever will be.
I so want to be pithy and write about the change in my life that came about from having cancer, but it's not coming. I'm not glad I had it. It did change me, somehow. In some ways it made me more anxious, and in other ways it reminded me that I need to live my life, not wait for it to happen. There is no later, there is only now. I can make plans for the future, but I should not ever put off something in hopes of a better time when I have no way of knowing if that better time will ever arrive. It could, and I can work for that, but only if working towards the goal is as satisfying as achieving it will be. It's all part of the same thing: my life.
I go back and forth with realizing this. Some days I am bold and happy and reach for things, and other days I am sad and fearful and withdrawn. None of us are perfect, and we can only be ourselves. I am a somewhat fearful person, in some ways. In others, I am brave because I don't see the risk as dangerous or frightening. I cannot fail, I can only fail to try. I would rather be sorry for things I did than things I failed to do. That's what I'm aiming for, anyway.
So, my piece of wisdom to share is that physical and emotional recovery from something like this takes time, and effort. I kept declaring myself physically recovered, and then I'd try to work out and exercise myself into being sick. I also declared that there was nothing emotionally to deal with, and I was wrong. I may have had a fairly benign form of cancer, but I did have cancer. That puts me at risk for other things, and it changes everything somehow. It's a subtle thing sometimes, but it also carries a big wallop. It took me a long time to figure that out, and until I did I wasn't moving on.
I have very little resentment about it, and I don't worry overmuch about consequences. I was very lucky. The oncologist said that this form of ovarian cancer does not put me as much at risk for other cancers as a more common kind might, which is good. I keep an eye on things, and I get on with my life. Isn't that enough? It has to be, for now.
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