In the two years leading up to my diagnosis with metastatic breast cancer I had been undergoing a major transition. On the physical side I had joined a weight loss program and was in the process of losing 90 pounds. I took up walking and then jogging. On the emotional side I had started seeing a therapist who helped me handle several issues, the foremost was the idea that I am not in control – and that my need to control situations was a result of anxiety. I was not allowing those in my life to fail or succeed on their own. On the faith side I had a real awakening about my relationship with God and was learning to let God be God; I had to stop trying to control my life and take time to breathe and allow God to help me. All of that was hard work but worth it because I liked the person I was becoming.
Was I really becoming a new person? Losing weight did not make me a new person; it gave me the confidence to show myself to outsiders and stop hiding things inside. Therapy certainly did not make me a new person; the goal was to figure out my thoughts and emotions and allow the real me to comfortably exist in the world. My reawakened faith did not make me a new person; accepting that God was in control and actively working in my life gave me a life preserver that let me stop worrying (okay, at least some of it) and focus on the good. The journey I was on helped me recharge some relationships. I learned to make time for the activities I enjoy because those things were important to me.
Since July 2019 I’ve been on a different journey – my cancer journey. My first blog post talked about how much cancer has changed me.
Today I have been wondering if I have that all wrong. To be fair, cancer is definitely changing the physical side of me. It is also easy to say that cancer is changing me inside, too. But maybe, just maybe, this journey is also helping me discard all the the things that aren’t me. I wonder if instead of becoming a different person, this journey is helping me to lay aside all the things that are not me so I can focus on the real me that has always been here.
I have always tried to be the best mom I can be for my kids. Cancer has limited my ability to be the kind of mom I think I should be, and also given me the shove to be the kind of mom I think I should be. To be sure, I have physical limitations now. But I also have no problems taking time off work or turning off my work notifications on my phone at the end of a work day. I don’t think about doing something fun with my kids; I actually make the plans. I don’t think about having important conversations with them; I have the conversations.
My cancer journey is making me determine who I really am and what I want out of life – and fast. It is forcing me to unbecome all the parts of my life that are not the real me. Playing the piano is central to who I am and how I talk to God, so I don’t think about playing when I get “everything else” done; I make time to play almost every day. Spending time with my husband, kids and mom has always been important, but now I grasp that time is not an infinite resource. One has to do the important things today and every day because the “some days” might not happen. My cancer journey is helping me give up the “shoulds.” I don’t do many things anymore simply because “I should.”
I think I am on a journey of unbecoming all the unimportant parts of me so that what is left is who I really am and who I have been from the start. Don’t wait for a cancer diagnosis —— start unbecoming today.