I decided to do some reflecting on some of my journal entries from a few years ago. Five years ago to be exact.
Five years. That seems like an eternity ago, and just yesterday all in the same moment. Rereading this reminded me of that girl. I wish I could tell you there was a happy ending and “She rode off into the sunset”. But there isn’t. Swap out the life experiences, and nothing has changed. Calculus has been traded into client visits and reports. College parties have been traded for dinner invites. Grades have been traded in for performance reviews.
But over this last year, something has shifted in me. The reminder that I have come through hell and am [mostly] on the other side. I’m becoming better at celebrating my life for what it is. I am alive today, when I didn’t think I would be at several different junctures through my life. The joys, and pains, and worries, and triumphs. I have a life to have all these experiences. And no matter what, that is worth celebrating.
National Cancer Survivor Day Musings – 2014
Today is National Cancer Survivor’s Day. I thought I’d post an update, but when I went to my drafts I found this in there. I wrote it about three weeks ago. The hurt I felt then is gone now, but re-reading it brought a rush of memories of how I felt. Discouraged. Defeated. Just Down. While I realize that I have so much to be thankful for, I’m human, and don’t always remember to “Give thanks without ceasing.” My hope in including it is that perhaps it will give you a little better understanding into the life of Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) survivors.
“This week is finals week. I had a Calculus II final at 7AM Monday morning, a paper due Tuesday at noon, and then a Physics final coming up on Friday morning.
I just got a grade back in Calculus…I went into the final with an A, but came out with a B. Somehow that has really just got me discouraged. It’s really hard being a cancer survivor in college. Sometimes I don’t know where to summon the strength to continue. I just want to throw in the towel. I never thought I’d cry about grades. I wasn’t one of those obsessed bio majors (sorry guys). But I did last night. And this morning. And probably will again. It’s one thing to get a not-A grade, because I’ve always known maybe I could have worked harder, or not gone to that concert, or not watched that movie, or not done this or that. But this time there is nothing to fall back on. I did my very best and it wasn’t an A.
I have to remember that I’m much more than my grades. I beat cancer. Twice.
Sometimes I fall in the trap of comparing my current self with my pre-cancer self. The girl who got all As. Who studied like crazy for a test and aced the test. The girl who knew she could get in the college she wanted to if she worked hard enough. So, she worked really hard, and got into that college.
The girl who vowed to audition at that college’s music school. The girl who applied and received the scholarship she wanted. The girl who wrote on her Summer Leadership Seminar goals sheet that she wanted to a) Make the Dean’s List every semester b) Be Valedictorian c) Give the commencement speech. That girl knew engineering was tough, but she was going to give it her all, and make it.
Sometimes that girl rears up in me. That girl who compares her 70 with her friend’s 86, instead of being happy she was over the average. The girl who feels disappointed she missed points in the test where you had to memorize six full pages of information, instead of being grateful she got as many points as she did. The girl who refuses to readjust her expectations. The girl who wants to be able to both hang out with friends and study, and sacrifice the sleep.
That girl is gone.
I need to consciously remind myself to let her go. To push her away. I am a new person. I have to remember that I can’t do it on my own. Doing my best is no longer enough to get me to where I want to be in life. I have to rely on God alone. It’s a hard lesson to learn; I think as a human I want to do everything in my own strength, not God’s. My life was miraculously spared by God, yet again. I need to trust him enough to let him lead my life. I shouldn’t seek to hold on to my past, but look forward instead. But sometimes it is really, really, gut-wrenchingly hard. So is writing this.
It’s summer now. June 1st to be exact. They say hindsight is 20/20. I got news for you-it is. I finished the semester. I took my physics final, threw my best friend a surprise graduation party, celebrated my mom’s birthday (all in the same day) and jumped right into an internship at Swagelok. It’s been a busy few weeks, but I’m happy.
Surviving is tough, real tough.
I think so many people think that you beat cancer, ‘woot woot’ now you’re life is perfect again, pick up where you left off. They don’t realize that cancer leaves eternal scars. Some physical. I still have lung troubles. Even in this beautiful weather, I find myself coughing. I get horrible vascular cramps all over my body. Sometimes I can’t sleep, or walk, or stand up because of the cramps. The slightest medical hiccup has my parents all worried about what could go wrong. Some emotional. No, I’m not a psychotic wreck, but I will never, ever be the girl I once was.
I hope my experiences have changed me for the better. I do have my moments of doubt though. I don’t have patience for people who complain to me about what I now view as trite affairs or try to drag out the latest on the gossip vine. I’m fed up with drama. But I hope I’ve learned to love deeper. I hope I’ve learned that people are always, always, more important than anything else in life.
I hope I’ve grown closer to God. I think I have a bigger appreciation for my salvation. Every day as I drive to work I am awed by the beauty God created. He could have made the sky plain blue. It isn’t just blue. It’s pink and purple and orange and grey and black and so many other colors. The sun shines its rays in beautiful lines. Why would God care so much to allow so much wonder into our little world? And then I’m always reminded that he must care a great deal for our world, if he gave his only Son to save us from our sins. That takes a pretty big heart and I know that he is beside me every day.
He gives me strength, when I ask for it. He brings blessings in my life, and has shown me favour, even though I don’t deserve it. I was blessed to finish the semester. My siblings, parents, and close friends prayed some decent grades into my GPA. Thank you for your prayers, which God graciously answered. Sometimes I lose my focus on what God has brought me through, and end up discouraged. But I have to remember that God is able to do exceedingly greater than I could ever imagine. He has plans to prosper me, and give me hope and a future.
All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer. If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you! Please submit your idea at https://elephantsandtea.cdn-pi.com/contact/submissions/.