In the act of “returning” it seems almost like the cancer never happened. It is a surreal memory mixed with new self-identification mixed with a hazy understanding that it might not be over. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know who I am. I am walking a tightrope, standing in the middle, not looking forward and not looking back. Over one edge is the painful memory, which is not really a memory but more of a permanent piece of my being, of the horrific-ness of the past 18 months. Over the other edge is a crushing pressure to live all of the lessons I’ve learned, to wake up thankful every morning, to exhibit nothing but love and grace. I am stuck here in this middle place. And I am terrified. I am terrified of never being able to move forward. I am terrified of moving forward too quickly and losing all of the lessons I have learned. I am terrified that I won’t be able to become the person I want to be – that I will never be the friend, daughter, wife, mother that I’ve promised to become. It is like I have broken free of captivity but am forced to carry my captor with me everywhere I go. And feeling this way makes me feel a guilt that crushes my soul. How dare I feel anything but an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love? What right do I have to experience any negative emotion at all when I am, so far, being given the ultimate gift of a second chance? Every time I feel sad or scared or angry, I feel like I am looking my fellow warriors in the eyes and slapping them right across the face. My treatment is working. All of our wishes are being granted. I am experiencing the results that every patient hopes for and I am not appreciating it enough. I am teetering on the edge between life and death, while simultaneously struggling to remember that it is even part of our lives. It is like I am caught in a dream where I can’t run. I know where I want to go and I cannot get there no matter how hard I try. I am constantly, every second, trying to define my new self. I scrutinize every one of my actions, thoughts, emotions, to determine how it fits my survivor self. Everything is the wrong size. Everything needs to be tailored. I am exhausted. And even just writing this makes me hate myself.
But this is the truth. This is what it is. Death has tapped my on the shoulder and I cannot shake his icy touch. He is one step behind me at all times, reminding me that no matter how “back-to-normal” my life may seem, I have forever relinquished control. I cannot run; he clings to my legs. I can only stand my ground and fight. Fight for myself and for all of my cancer brothers and sisters. Fight for the researchers who are devoting their lives to finding us a cure. Fight for the all of the loved ones of people with cancer who stand by us every day, experiencing just as much if not even more pain and emotional trauma than we do. The desire to lash out, to take action, to scream from the mountain top boils just under my skin, making me restless like a caged animal. I am an amateur in this ring. I need someone to train me, to tell me what to do. How can I fight? What can I do? Yes, I can remind people to use sunscreen, and I can blog about the importance of clinical trials, and I can support the banning of tanning beds, and I can tell everyone I know about the amazing treatment opportunities at NCI. But I need something bigger than that. I need a louder voice. I need to be doing every possible thing I can or I will break. That is not a metaphor. This need is so overwhelming that it is threatening to drown me. I have this fight in me; I just need the chance to unleash it. I will find a way. I have to find a way. I have a debt to repay and the rest of my life to do it. And for that, I am thankful.
Today I am thankful to rejoin my wonderful MMG family; I am thankful for all of the amazing warriors we have had the opportunity to meet through this journey; I am thankful for the IL-12 treatment that is curing me and will no doubt cure our new friend, Angela, as well – stay strong sister we are with you; I am thankful for every comment posted to this blog – if anyone has any questions for me or wants to get in touch one-on-one please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, sometimes I am unable to reply to posts asking for my assistance due to the nature of the blog; I am thankful for our amazing friends and family; and as always, I am thankful for my fabulous husband, Jeff, and our perfect baby Kai. I hope that you too learn to fight, little one, but I will do everything within my power to keep you out of the ring.