The Bright Side of Cancer: Re-Starting Yourself

Before my cancer treatment, I was pretty busy.  I worked full time, I had three children in school (and music lessons and concerts), I worked out almost every day, I performed weekly as a music therapist.  I used to spend a lot of time on Facebook, trying to keep up with all of my friends.

Then came cancer, and as I walked farther into the darkness of treatment, I began to lose those things.  Exercise was one of the first to go, as was trying to read all of my friends’ posts.  Gigs went, then work.  Eventually, I was missing my children’s school performances, and that hurt the most.  

Eventually there comes a blank spot on the map where I don’t remember much.  But I think that it was more than drugs and the fatigue of radiation.  I was letting go of things.  Consciously letting go.  Accepting that I did not have the energy to do something and opening up my hands to let it float away.

It was freeing, actually.  Some of it was even fun, when it was stressful things getting left behind.  Sometimes I didn’t realize how stressful things were until they were gone.  (Turns out I didn’t like going to the gym as much as I’d thought. After treatment, I went back to running on my own and I enjoy that a lot more.)  Other things were harder to give up–one of the worst was doing dishes and laundry, because then I had to watch my husband and children take over my chores, in addition to caring for me.  

But as I got weaker, I stopped feeling guilty about not pulling my own weight, because it was clear that I really wasn’t able to do much of anything.  At that point I was completely free of obligations.  It’s such a weird feeling, like being on vacation, but really on vacation, where you don’t have to worry about packing your luggage or driving anywhere or even figuring out room service.  You just float in this place with absolutely nothing to do.

Of course, I hated it!  Too much of a good thing, I guess.  But then the when the worst had passed and I was starting to climb back out of treatment, I realized what a gift I’d been given.  I was able to really examine what I had let go, and to my surprise, it wasn’t just chores and attending concerts.  Suddenly I had stopped putting energy into things that I didn’t know were taking up my energy.  Better yet, I could now choose whether or not to start those things back up.

I found myself in this strange place where I didn’t care if things weren’t perfect.  If I didn’t read everything on Facebook everyday.  If I didn’t get something organized exactly right.  I was able to say the words good enough.

My husband and I had a few old (though minor) grievances between us, as all married couples do.  I used to spend time thinking about those.  I used to worry about things I’d gone through as a kid, things that had little bearing on my adult life.  Or choices that I’d made long ago and had always wondered about.  But not anymore.  I was able to say (and mean) the words I don’t care.

And I no longer felt like I had to be responsible for everything.  Reading every major news story, trying to volunteer for every special event at my kids’ schools.  I was able to say the words, let other people worry about it.

You know that stupid thing your phone does when it restarts and tells you it’s optimizing apps?  As it turns out, that’s a really good thing to do to yourself.  I honestly feel like I was shut down for a while and then re-started.  And while I was coming back online, I uninstalled some crap that was draining my battery.

I am pretty busy now.  I once again work full-time and go to my kids’ lessons and concerts.  I run, and I have two gigs a week now.  I’ve added this blog, and I find time to write fiction.  But there’s a lot of old nonsense that I don’t carry around anymore.

Of course, I’ve found new things to be anxious about:  playing piano in front of people, trying to get published again.  I know I give those things energy and that I don’t have to choose to do that.  While I am not perfectly able to let go of all the things that worry me, just knowing that it’s possible is a gift.  And one I’d like to share with you.

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