I'm coming up on an important anniversary. It will be 3 years since my last treatment next week.
As I was saying to Mom on her last visit, it sometimes feels as if the whole "cancer thing" never happened. Then I try to swallow, feel the hole in my stomach that's still there and look in the mirror and see how quickly I've aged since being diagnosed with Head & Neck cancer. Three years later, I'm just now getting back to a comfortable weight––I lost almost 50 pounds––and starting to feel like myself again. Sort of.
I've had this conversation with my Doctors and other cancer survivors over the last few years, trying to understand and get to "normal". When I was working with the VA at my last job, I got to talk to the Doctors about this at length. The discussion was in regards to military personnel coming back home from the current theaters and trying to adjust to every day life. Their "normal" changed dramatically while serving in the field in the Middle East. Normal for them is NOT brushing your teeth every day, not being able to take a shower for weeks and always wondering when you're going to take a bullet or get hit by an enemy you sometimes can't see. Your habits, perspective and decisions are altered forever for most, unfortunately. Normal becomes anything but normal.
The hardest part of recovery is managing the expectations of others. Your family wants you to be like you were before. Your job demands not only a return to the performer you were before your illness, but expects you to outperform yourself. After all, it's a what-have-you-done-for-lately (cue Paula Abdul) kind of world. I make my living with my brain. My title of Creative Director brings a certain amount of pressure and expectation that I'm all-creative, all the time. And I've always put more pressure on myself than others have––I believe because of the many, many years I was a competitive athlete. I used to chase perfection. Chase the great American Dream. Aspire to be the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). But that nearly killed me.
Time to stop chasing and just live.
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