Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

In 1972, David Bowie came out with a song called “Changes.” The song deals with changes in our lives and how we deal with them. Change is never easy. It’s always hard to welcome change but sometimes it’s necessary. 

My new blog is all about moving forward and leaving pink behind, and while I hate to use the phrase “getting back to normal, ”that’s exactly what I’m doing. My normal will never be the same as it was before cancer, but it’s interesting to realize that normal is a relative term. Change is a good thing and God uses it to help us grow. I’m noticing some big changes in my life and here are some of the things I’m seeing after 19 months of focusing solely on surviving breast cancer.  

First of all, I’m still here! When I was first diagnosed, I immediately thought I’d been given a death sentence. Cancer is a scary word but it doesn’t necessarily mean imminent death. I’ve fought hard to be here and I’m glad God’s allowed me to continue living. I know He’s not done with me yet and He’s still got a big plan for my life. Each day, I’m trying to listen to His voice and seek direction on what that big plan might be. I’m trusting Him to lead me exactly where He wants me to go. 

Living in the moment is fun! It’s a lot less stressful to concentrate on the present instead of worrying about the past. When my mind starts to wander back to the past or forward to the future, I look down at my feet and remember where I am. Being firmly planted helps me remember to take one moment at a time. I never did that before cancer. I was always planning ahead or worrying about the future. A sweet friend encouraged me to always remember to be exactly where I am. That was really good, sound advice! 

I’ve stopped saying “I have cancer.” Now I say, “I had cancer.” There’s a big difference in the two. When I used to say I have cancer, I was acknowledging the fact that cancer was still active in my body. I’ve had 2 surgeries to remove it and I’ve completed my treatments. Cancer is no longer active in my body and the Lord willing, it never will be again.
I no longer spend the majority of my time in doctors’ offices or hospitals. I’m so thankful for that! This is a very, very, big change! 

I don’t care what people think about my flat chest. Since it’s winter, I still sometimes camouflage my chest with a sweatshirt or jacket. I don’t usually wear my prostheses, even though I have them. I’ve gotten used to being flat. My family has adjusted well to my flat chest, too. In the Spring, I might care a little more about the need to display femininity and begin to wear my prostheses, but right now, I’m fine without them. Learning to accept things as they are instead of as you want them to be is a definite change in my life. 

I’m getting out in public a little more. Breast cancer made me an agoraphobic. I got really comfortable staying by myself and being in the safety of my own home. Those chains have fallen off now and I’m free to go places and do things without stressing about my appearance. I’ve finally realized I’m not a total freak. Most of the time, people don’t even notice I have no boobs. 

It’s okay to cry whenever I want or need to cry. I’m really am quite a sap. There, I said it. I find myself crying more now than I did before I was diagnosed with cancer. Maybe I’m just starting to realize how very precious life is or maybe it’s just realizing I’m not quite as young as I used to be. In any event, tears leak out when I least expect it. I’ve always been pretty sentimental but now I’m even more so than ever before. Crying doesn’t necessarily signify weakness in me, it just shows the depth of the emotions I’m feeling. Being able to cry and not feel guilty is a big change. 

I pay attention to seatbelts now. I never used to give a thought to clicking on my seatbelt in the past. I did it out of habit. Now, I’m keenly aware of it. It’s uncomfortable for me to wear a seatbelt that crosses over my chest area. The belt rubs against my chest wall and although my scars have healed, they are still sensitive to pressure. I have a padded seat belt cover I use to help me feel more comfortable. 

I’m worry less now. I used to be a huge worry wort. I was always caught up in a world of “what ifs.” I didn’t like the fact that I worried, I just did it. It came naturally to me. Now, not so much. Now that I’ve passed one of the greatest “what ifs” I could ever imagine, nothing seems to bother me anymore. 

I’ve learned I’m stronger than I ever imagined. I never dreamed I’d be able to be victorious over breast cancer. There were some really tough days these past 19 months and sometimes, I just wanted to give up and stop trying but I never did. I kept going. I learned to persevere. There’s a quote from the Winnie the Pooh movie that I love and it says, “Always remember you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” I have that hanging in my office to remind myself daily. 

I sometimes need a nap and that’s okay! I’ve never been a napper but now I find I get tired more easily than I did in the past. That could be a side effect of aging, too, but I never experienced this before cancer. My stamina may remain low, I just need to learn to set healthy boundaries for myself. It’s important to know what I can and can’t do and be okay with it. 

I overuse hand sanitizer. I’ve become a germaphobe. It’s pretty natural to want to keep germs at bay when you’ve been dealt the cancer card especially when your immune system is low. I keep a bottle of sanitizer with me at all times. There’s a bottle in my car, in my purse, and in every room of my home. People might think I’m obsessive, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. 

I can sleep on my stomach again! When I was young, I used to be a stomach sleeper. After I developed breasts, I became a side sleeper. I was afraid to sleep on my stomach for fear of squishing my valuable assets. Right after my double mastectomy, my chest was in such pain, I could barely stand to sleep on my back but now, after months of healing, I’m finally able to sleep on my perfectly flat chest if I want to do so. 

I’ve learned to let go of my hair. I loved my hair getting longer but it was getting so thin and was still falling out from the anti-hormone therapy. I finally gave in and got it cut off super short. It will be a lot easier to take care of and it looks thicker than it really is! 

I am drug free! Well, sort of…I’m cancer drug free. I still have my prescription medications I take for controlling high blood pressure and things like that, but I’m off of all cancer medications. It was my choice to leave the cancer medications behind. Nasty side effects weren’t something I was willing to accept. Now I keep my body in an alkaline state and have made dietary changes that will be more favorable for keeping cancer away. I take many natural supplements and drink lots of green tea, too. So far, so good!

So those are some of the many changes I’ve gone through since June 2014 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I know there are many more things God will teach me and I hope I’m a willing student. I want to learn all the valuable lessons He wants me to know and understand. I know there was a really, really good reason for Him allowing cancer into my life in the first place. He doesn’t do anything randomly. Our God is a God of order. I’m just so thankful He loves me enough to hand pick the trials and tribulations that come into my life.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

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