Friday, October 29, 2010

Chasing Normal

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.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I've been away from the keyboard for a few days while my family came to visit. My Mom and my Cousin spent three days with us last week. It was the first time my Mom has seen me since recovering from cancer. It was the first time I'd seen my Cousin in about 7 years.

It was a great visit. It was also a reminder how important family is to all of us. We all have some sort of family unit, which takes on many shapes and forms. And that type of diversity is a GOOD thing, no matter what your beliefs, traditions and practices may be. I say this because we have lived in the DC area for 16 years, away from all of our extended family and have come to rely on each other for so much support. My family is the most important thing in my life.

I've always desired to have a close knit family, one that enjoys each other's company––most of the time, 'cause 100% of bliss, happiness and getting along is TOTALLY out of the question––and above all else, understands that love is the eternal bond no matter what the circumstances. My family means everything to me, and as a cancer survivor, that love is what pulled me through to recovery. The love from those far away. And the love that was and is, close by.

This is somewhat of an interesting post for me, as a member of our family passed away suddenly as we all we're just feeling so good about spending time together. So it is with a heavy heart I write this somewhat somber post, dedicated to La Familia. I treasure the time I have with my family. It can be taken away in an instant and an excruciating family time/moment can seem like a lifetime. But I do believe in one major factor that is at the center of any family, no matter what your definition is of "family".

Love fuels the family. Family is love.