Thursday, June 2, 2022

When Will Cancer Stop Being Part of My Identity?


Almost 8 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since that time, I've learned more about the disease than I ever cared to know. Part of that knowledge came from my own research and part of it came from actual experience. Either way, I wish I'd never become acquainted personally with the disease. 

Cancer has brought both good and bad things into my life. The bad definitely outweigh the goods on the scale of justice, I'd have to say, but instead of focusing on the negative, today I'll focus on the positive. 

Cancer has given me new opportunities to meet people I'd never have met otherwise. I've met people through online breast cancer support groups, through classes at the cancer treatment center, and through other activities offered solely for cancer survivors. Although it's seemed like a secret sorority at times, it certainly isn't close to one of those. Though I've never belonged to a sorority, I've watched enough movies to know what they're about - a society of comradery and sisterhood, a place to live, laugh, and love in an unfettered, unconditional way. Cancer and all that entails is completely opposite in my opinion. Oh yes, there are times when it draws people together, especially as we share our experiences with one another, but more often than not, it divides. 

Cancer has also given me a voice. Oh, I've always had one, and those who know me well, know I use my writing more than my speaking voice, but I always have something to say. The first couple of years after diagnosis, I wrote an article about cancer and my marriage. The article was very open and raw. It shared the way cancer had affected my relationship with my husband in a very intimate way. For some strange reason, I submitted it to the editor of a popular cancer magazine I'd found online. I had no idea they'd want to publish it, although I secretly hoped they might. That publication opened the door for me to become a contributing editor and for the past 6+ years, I've written diligently for them. They've even paid me for my work, so cancer helped me claim the title of freelance writer. Through that publication, my articles have been syndicated and have appeared all over the world! That's pretty amazing to me, but I can't help but wonder when cancer will stop being part of my identity. 

It's almost as if I've forgotten who I was b.c. (before cancer). 

I'm still the same fun loving, happy go lucky person I always was, only now, I'm more cautious. I'm more reserved. I'm more anxious. 

Before cancer, I never suffered insomnia or panic attacks. Since cancer, those have been an ugly part of my life. And they've been a part I don't like. I don't like things I can't control. As a typical type A personality, I need to be in control at all times. Cancer robbed me of that. 

So, I've tried to make peace with the fact that cancer will always be part of me now. Even though I'm officially living in a state of N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease), somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind, I can feel it. It's embedded and no matter how hard I try; I can't rip it loose. 

Maybe it's supposed to be there. Remember Paul, from the Bible? He had a "thorn in the side," a constant reminder of his weakness as opposed to God's great strength. Maybe that little embedded "cancer bug" is supposed to remind me to lean hard on Jesus at all times. If that's the case, I can thank Him for it because without it, I might just forget that He's in control and I'm not. 

Yes, cancer has become part of who I am, I think, and I'm at peace with that as long as it lies dormant...forever!

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