This is cross-posted at the Tomas Blog.
I stumbled upon this article today with a sigh of relief.
You mean I’m not the only one?!!! Paraganglioma not quite exactly being cancer notwithstanding, I find that I’m relating strongly to stories of how people feel after surviving the Big C.
We evicted Tomas in February, had our follow-up in March and in the meantime we’ve kind of been marinating in this new space.
I wish I could tell you we were marinating in normal. But I don’t feel normal. I mean… Tomas is gone and we finally got the genetic testing results and they were unbelievably–NEGATIVE?!–at least for the two most highly suspected mutations. And yeah I’ve got little nodule Tomasito on the neck but here we are in a holding pattern which means that I should just be sprinkling fairy dust and rainbows of happiness behind me with every step I take, right???
Oh. I wish. I just don’t work that way. I mean…. I can be whimsical, but I’ve never been light enough in any sense of the word to do the whole Tinkerbell routine. It’s just the truth.
Don’t get me wrong I’ve got the important kind of joy: The kind that is unshakable in the face of even things like Tomas and worse because I know that I am Abba’s beloved and He cares for me. But I find that outside of that particular stream of joy the rest of my emotions can be rather variable.
I’m a girl who battles depression off and on. And this was a tough year. A really tough year. And as I mentioned in the previous post there are still plenty of loose ends. By and large I just keep waiting to feel happy and relieved and instead I find I just feel discombobulated.
I can’t just “Go back to normal,” because I’m a different person now. I’m a person who has not just been hit with a serious illness as a family member, but now the dragon of cancer or at least pseudo-cancer has come knocking at my own door. No, I didn’t go through radiation or chemotherapy, but from diagnosis to surgery it was 8 full months. Plus the post-op infection and now… the other nodule. That’s a long time to live in the shadow of an illness. I didn’t come out unchanged. Neither did my family. We know now for better or for worse–and yes, some of it is definitely for better–that ANYONE can be that 1 in a million person. We just can’t take it for granted that the crazy story or difficult misfortune won’t happen to us.
(On the flip-side, we’re now more likely to sign ourselves up for drawings and take those surveys they give out at restaurants with the potential promise of gifts and good-fortune…. You gotta make the Zebra luck work for you once in a while!)
But I’ve survived. I am surviving. I am a survivor. And isn’t that a happy thing?
Yes of course! But it’s a sober kind of happy. It’s a deep breath, long sigh, look over your shoulder kind of happy.
I resonated so much with the article, but especially with this:
Time to celebrate and move on, right? At least that’s what I was hoping, but it didn’t work out that way. I was glad the cancer was gone, but instead of feeling elated, I was like, “Now what?”…… Everything had changed, and I had no idea how to get back to “normal.”
I looked different. I felt different. Yet I was told to “move on.” Certainly everyone around me had done so, and they wanted me to as well. But I didn’t know how. I was confused and had no one to talk to. I felt guilty holding on to my cancer experience when everyone else was elated at my “survival,” but when it came down to it, I had nothing else to hold on to.
I can’t tell you how emphatically I nodded at these paragraphs. I mean, you could hear the proverbial BBs rattling around the boxcar of my brain I was nodding so hard. It’s hard to explain, and yet she did. I feel guilty holding onto my experience while everyone else has moved on or is in, “You should celebrate,” mode. But I haven’t made sense of it yet. I haven’t processed it. I take a looong time to process things and I don’t do a good job of attending to that job when I’m *in* something. I need time and distance to start looking at things and figuring out how they integrate into who I am.
I subjected myself to a Mary Kay makeover done by a very good friend, yesterday. As my girlfriend chatted about the importance of eradicating the wrinkles and ‘lines of emotion’ on our faces, a small part of me couldn’t help but think, “Hey look–I may only be 30 and I may be Queen Frumpy who specializes in Goobie Headed fashion, but Darn it, I earned these wrinkles!” I feel like an old 30. A sober one. Life has piled up high in it’s sweetness and it’s goodness but also in it’s difficulty and it’s travail. If I have wrinkles and grey hairs already, it’s because I’ve earned them.
I’m not saying it’s all long-faces around here. I try not to be TOO morose. I’ve learned to whistle in the dark and talk in humorous terms about things that are serious, and quite frankly, scare the pee-wadding out of me. I’ve been told I’ve even elicited a giggle or two out of this-here blog
. All that said, I’m still not necessarily sprinkling fairy dust over here. I may be even more thinkative than before–if that’s possible! I am processing life with yet another pair of lenses. They are lenses of survivorship, but maybe survivorship isn’t so much about feeling invincible after facing a challenge. Maybe it is more about knowing your own vulnerability and the vulnerability of the ones that you love and walking on anyway. That kind of thing is heavier than pixie-dust, and doesn’t look as smiley sometimes, but I think it’s still good stuff.
So I’m working on finding my way to Normal (I’m told it’s a town not far from my Sister-in-law’s place in IL….), but I know from previous walks through difficult times that it will be a new normal. I can only hope that I will like the Val of the new normal a little better and that God will use the hard stuff–has used it, is using it, will use it even if there is more to this story–to His glory.