There are many things I wonder about.
Who would I be, if I hadn’t gotten cancer? Has my fight with this disease fundamentally changed who I am, for better or worse? Would I be less compassionate, more complacent, had I not faced serious health challenges? Would I be quicker to judge, more impatient with my own and others’ foibles?
What would my marriage have been like without these early and constant trials? Have they brought Steve and me closer than we would be otherwise? Would we appreciate each other less, or more? What would it be like to be simply partners, without the added caregiver dynamics?
My mother, in response to my confession that I sometimes feel ugly, physically deformed by the changes the disease has wrought in my body, reassured me that I was still the same person on the inside, where it mattered. But am I? I don’t feel like the same person. Physically, my body is slower, of course. My brain is, too. I am more content to be, rather than always do. I’m less of a perfectionist, which has opened up new avenues to explore my art. I sometimes actually feel I see the world in a different way, as if access to the visual has overtaken the verbal.
I was always emotional, but I think I’ve progressed to moody. Broody. Cranky with pain sometimes. And there are several identities I’ve held in the past that no longer apply. I’m a foodie in spirit only now. Not much of a wine drinker anymore. No longer the one who pulls other people onto the dance floor, or the professor whose courses incorporate hikes. I used to be more of an adventurer. I’d take myself to a park, paddle around the lake. I was a marathon shopper.
Some of those identities were shifting, anyway. But one of the tough things about a serious illness is the way it whittles down your world in ways you didn’t anticipate. Whether you want it to or not, it changes you.
I’m still a crazy cat lady. I still write and create. I still cherish being a wife, a friend, a stepmom, a daughter, a sister. I like to think I’ve gained some valuable insights about myself and who I want to be. But I do miss some of those lost puzzle pieces. Like everyone else, I’ll just have to do the best I can to create a beautiful picture from the ones I’ve got.
Friends, I have a request. I’ve got another week coming where I have a medical appointment almost every day. Will you do me the honor of embracing something you love or enjoy each day, and really savoring it? Whether it’s eating a fave food, or listening to your favorite music, or calling a friend you treasure–anything. And send me some of the good vibes and joy you feel while you’re doing it. My thanks!