I started to write today about this stubborn and lingering cough and how I finally caved in and went to see my GP, just to appease my husband and confirm that nothing sinister was lurking in my lungs or my chest or wherever it is that coughs originate. But then I decided that I’m kind of mentally over this whole being sick thing and since my doctor confirmed that it’s probably just a cough, there really isn’t much to say about it. If I’m still coughing in a week or so, I’ll have to go for a chest X-ray, but for today, I’m sticking with “just a cough.”
And so that’s how it goes. We are slowly reclaiming our lives, falling back into our routine of work, school, homework and family time. I feel different, though. The post-cancer self is not the pre-cancer self. I am less willing to get involved with activities and things that aren’t rewarding in any way, or are simply the things I “should” be doing even if I can’t remember why. My old self would have tried really hard to please others, to do what’s expected so the boat doesn’t rock. My new self doesn’t care about that. My new self is maybe a bit more selfish, a bit more protective of my family and our family time, but also, just the opposite of that, too.
Is it possible to be more selfish and more empathetic at the same time? Is it possible to have greater and less perspective all at once? I think it’s akin to the lens shifting, just a small amount, but enough to see things from a different angle. When you think there is a chance you may die, when your body is carved up and sewn back together again, when the physical healing is a slow unsteady process, you can’t help but be forever changed.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I’m going through emotionally. I think that part of it, the hard work of really processing this last year and all that happened to me, to James, to us as a family, will take time. I’m not the sort of person who can just pick up the pieces and keep going, I can’t just “get on with my life” and put this behind me. I know a lot of people can, and do, just move on. But that’s not me. The writer in me can’t — won’t — allow it.
I am grateful for things I never knew I should be grateful for: A small kindness from a stranger, a lingering rose in the garden, a song that takes me back to something I used to know or a place I used to be. And then bigger, more obvious things, too: the people who bring me joy, the places that anchor my world and the things that set me free.
I don’t need to know what the future holds. All I need is today, this moment. Over time, the todays add up to hope, to trust, to a belief that what was in the past is behind us and what is in the future is ours to create. If I can live the rest of my life being mindful of exactly that, well, then I think that might be enough.