Sunday, August 12, 2012

The End? Living Past the Fear

I am currently experiencing a multitude of conflicting feelings.  On the one hand having finished with radiation and not seeing any doctors for the next year is exhilarating.  I am beyond euphoric.  However, at the same time this is scary.  I finally get to move on with my life and chase those dreams that could so easily have only been dreams.  This is wonderful, but terrifying.  I have been held in a cocoon of doctors that have, “got my back” for so long it feels weird to be on the other side.  No, I am not totally out of the medical system.  I have one last reconstructive surgery a year from now, I will be taking pills every day for the next five years, and will have a check-up once a year for the rest of my life.  This feels like nothing compared to the amount of time I spent at hospitals, clinics, and treatment centers before.  As wonderful as it was to hear my oncologist say, “See you in a year!” it was also very strange.  I feel like my safety blanket of doctors and nurses is being ripped away from me.  Part of me just wants to huddle in a little ball and hope that nothing bad ever happens to me again.  

This entire experience has left me with a ridiculous amount of fear.  What if the cancer comes back?  Should I really be eating this?  Will this one drink bring it back?  I realize that this is silly.  A number of factors contribute to cancer.  No one will ever know what caused my cancer and no one will ever be able to know if it will come back.  Until then I have to try and live my life as best as I can.  However, that means recognizing and living with this fear inside of me.  I do not know if it will ever completely go away, but I will continue to try and live as if it is not there, to push through it if you will.  All that matters now is that I live the life that I have the opportunity to live.  Life is a privilege. 

On top of this new fear I have become both insanely confident and unconfident.  I do things now because I do not really give a damn what others think of my actions.  I do things for me.  Now this may seem a bit selfish, but I would never intentionally do something to hurt or offend someone else.  I am talking about little things such as dressing nicely, treating myself to a movie, dancing in public, etc.  I am much nicer to myself than I was before.  Happiness is important and I definitely take more time to be happy. 

On the other hand, I am far less confident about my body and its representation of myself.  I was proud of my body right before I was diagnosed.  I felt tall (I know I’m super short, but I did feel tall; especially in heels :P), strong, and beautiful.  Sure I was unhappy with this or that, but overall, my body seemed like an accurate representation of who I was on the inside.  Not so much anymore.  I do feel somewhat more feminine than right after my mastectomy.  However, the fact that I have to spend a ridiculous amount of time and money (Seriously, VS, you need to adjust your prices) trying to make my breasts look natural and even with each other for the next year is frustrating.  I am also often concerned that I might take an eye out.  I am not kidding here.  The expander is very stiff and hard and, although I do not intend to test this theory, could probably give someone a nice shiner...

I sometimes feel like I am acting the part of femininity instead of naturally being feminine.  Although, we all act out some form of femininity, masculinity, or both, we do not actively think about it.  I am sure that this will become more natural again.  It is just frustrating to have to re-adapt to being a person and not a cancer patient.  Returning to exercise is also a bit rough.  Running four miles a day is not really an option at the moment.  Although, I know that athleticism will come back with time and patience.  The return of my hair has definitely made things easier (I look like a baby shark, an adorable baby shark I might add).  People no longer look at me and think cancer patient.  I am not a cancer patient, not really anymore, but that feels weird too.  Like I said before, it is hard to get rid of that idea of being sick.  Being okay is new and hard and I will adapt.  My body will eventually be a part of me again, it just takes time.  Time that I actually have. 

So many people have greatly touched my heart throughout this experience that I truly cannot think of an adequate way to say thank you.  Professors[1], friends, family, doctors, nurses, and even complete strangers have shown an amount of love and kindness that is unbelievable unless personally experienced.  These people, all of you, have saved my life.  I mean it.  I would not be here today without the shear amount of absolute kindness you have shown me.  It is because of you that I have been able to be the positive, stubborn, little brat that I am.  People always tell me that they are proud of me and my shear will power, but honestly, it is not me that they should be proud of.  It is this amazing support system.  It is the fact that the world is filled with love and kindness that helped me through this whole ordeal.   

I am done with cancer.  Well, with the hard stuff anyway.  I just have reconstruction in about a year and pretty much my life has returned to normal. It is strange to think that I am normal, or at least slowly becoming normal, again.  I always wanted to be so different and unique and now I just want to get a chance to have a normal life.  I want to do all the things that I ever wanted to do.  So, I am doing them.  In about two weeks I am leaving the country to embark on a new section of my life.  I think it is time I experienced a new type of adventure.  I am so excited to see the world and be a part of a larger community than I ever could have imagined.  I promise to put my fear aside, enjoy the excitement, take full advantage of my ability to be healthy and to live the life that you have all given me.  The world is waiting and I am going to meet it. Hello, World.  My name is Michaela and I am ready to accept any challenges you can throw at me.    

[1] I would like to thank the entire Knox Community for your support.  Knox College really did change my life and I know that I would not have been able to go through this without the skills that Knox gave me.  I would also like to point out that not many college classmates would individually reach out to a single student with cancer.  So many of you have contacted me throughout the last year.  Some of whom did not even spend a great deal of time with me.  Honestly, Knox is a true community.  There are not many places in this world that hold as much collective kindness as Knox College.  I love you.