Heather’s blog: Moving on from cancerSeptember 16, 2014
Life After Cancer. Another Step. Another Climb. Living One Day at a Time.
Life after cancer. Five years ago when I was initially diagnosed with cervical cancer, this was not a topic I thought I would ever be talking about. Not because I had those dark moments where my thoughts went to the really bad place that I couldn’t even admit to myself until four years after my treatments (AM I GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH THIS?) Those thoughts were most definitely there, but that isn’t it. I actually never thought I would be talking about life after cancer because mostly I went into my treatments thinking that cancer was going to occupy a very short period of my life. One surgery and six weeks of recovery. Done. I would have cancer and I would move on. Easy.
That way of thinking was great in theory, but the short period of my life that cancer was supposed to occupy changed the day I was told it had spread to my lymph nodes. One surgery, and six weeks of recovery had now turned into six months of combined treatments. Even then, I still thought that once this extended plan was completed I would just be able to resume my life the way it was before cancer, and cancer would be nothing but something that had just happened.
I was nearly two years post-cancer treatments, when it finally hit me — I had cancer. My life was no longer what it had been two years prior, and I no longer recognized what direction it was supposed to go in. The plan I had to move on like it had never happened didn’t work; not in the slightest. The long term effects cancer had on my body and my future began to surface, and I struggled because I began to realize that navigating my life after cancer was proving to be much more difficult than living my life going through the treatments. I kept asking myself what now? What now? WHAT NOW?
Before cancer, I was vivacious! I was someone who believed in myself and if I wanted it, or was passionate about it, I went for it. After cancer, I didn’t feel like any of those things anymore. I didn’t recognize the person I had become, and I was miserable with everything! But like all things in life, when you are faced with a difficult challenge, you have a choice. I had a choice. I could let cancer live my life or I could live my life with cancer.
It didn’t happen overnight, in fact it took nearly another three years, but as time passed, I slowly started to find my way back to the person I once was. I sought out support, I shared my story, and I took things one day at a time. I can honestly say that I am not yet living my life the best way I know how, but I can now say that I know I will get there. One day at a time. I try to live my life the best way I know how for that day. I try to embrace that, embrace myself, embrace the things I have learned I am passionate about, and live in the present moment.
Fourteen years ago I moved to Scotland, and I climbed a mountain. When I got to the top of that mountain, I threw my arms in the air and yelled, “Alba gu brath!” (Scotland Forever). That climb came after a very difficult period of my life, and it was so much more than a 19 year old girl climbing a mountain as part of the backpacker’s tour she was on. It represented me moving onward and upward, and leaving the lowest point of my life at the lowest point of that mountain. I could still see it, it was still there, but I had risen above it, and I could enjoy the view of seeing how far I had come.
This week I’m going to Newfoundland as part of Retreat Yourself Adventure, and I’m going to climb a mountain. I haven’t quite figured out what I am going to yell when I get to the top of this mountain, but what I do know is it will be another step, another climb in my cancer journey. I can also guarantee that at the top of this mountain I will be throwing my arms in the air in triumph, and enjoying the view from the top!
Live life on purpose,