Ordinary Times

So we’re 22 months post diagnosis now and our little toddler is walking and talking up a storm. Just kidding about that one. But seriously, the analogy kinda’ works if you think about it. When you’re first diagnosed with cancer, it’s like like you’re starting all over again, from Day 1/Ground Zero. You could even liken pregnancy to the pre-cancer diagnosis. At least in our case, you could. J was sick and nauseous on occasion, and kept trying to figure out what he should or shouldn’t eat. Then the day you receive the official diagnosis–BOY or GIRL–cancer or colitis or reflux or the myriad other possibilities that were batted about in J’s case–becomes the starting point for a new life. Life with baby. Life with cancer.*

That new life is so busy at first, you hardly have time to breathe and you often think later about how it was all a blur.  Out of the fog emerges gradually increasing clarity, and eventually the new parent finds he or she has the time and energy to actually read a novel again! Imagine! She makes new friends. He reconnects with old friends. New patterns emerge and then change again. You learn to roll with it, or, if you don’t, you find yourself constantly frustrated at not being able to get back to “the old you”.

On a side note. Funny story. I once befriended a new mom with an infant, her first child. Her child and my child (my third) were born one day apart. One morning in the park, she revealed to me that she and her husband were looking forward to the day when “things would get back to normal and we’ll have the weekends to ourselves again.” I didn’t want to break it to her then that that day will likely never come.

Being a parent changes you fundamentally, to the point that you think of yourself differently, and it even changes how you view other relationships in your life, particularly those with your parents and your partner. Your old normal never reemerges, at least not in the same form. You may miss some of the old ways–your time alone to read and reflect, your time as a couple to spend the whole weekend relaxing or doting on your dog and working in your garden. But you wouldn’t trade it for anything because parenting has created a new you along with that new person in your home. With cancer, the new you also emerges out of the newborn fog into the state of unbalanced toddling around. What should I do with this new information I have about life? How can I incorporate the lessons learned into a life well lived? How do I live with the uncertaintly of not knowing if my or my loved ones’ cancer will return? How do I acknowledge the pain and fear without letting it cloud my everyday? How do I insert myself back into life without falling into the trap of saying “yes” to every volunteer opportunity again? (This is my particular sticking point!)

I’m trying to come to terms with living with our newer and deeper understanding of the preciousness of life while at the same time accepting that the old life with its schedules and crankiness (and joys!) will keep coming at us, relentlessly. Cancer lesson learned-Check! For now, at least. Many other life lessons–checking them off as they come along!

 *There is a non-profit organization called Life with Cancer in Northern Virginia that offers all kinds of classes and information sessions to support people dealing with cancer. Check it out if you live in NoVa. https://www.lifewithcancer.org/    

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