Feeling Alive While I Recover From Cancer


I feel terror and beauty all around me, but it's OK to feel them both — they've gotten me this far.

I am driving away from elementary school drop off, watching my middle and youngest head off to the school grounds. The middle and moody child immediately breaks into a smile when she catches up with her buddies, giggling and chatting. It's a beautiful thing to see her smile. My eyes then follow my youngest as she skips off to hop on a swing at the playground before the bell rings.

As I drive away, I feel my chest tighten up out of nowhere and I feel like I can't breathe. I am suddenly about to burst into tears. I need to come up for air.

It's been about five months since I was lying in the hospital bed, looking out the window, watching the world go on without me. At the time, I didn't have a clue as to where I would be in five months. How far had the cancer spread? One of the hardest challenges was the unknown ... another was the feeling of being so alone.

This hasn't changed. I am feeling my way through life every day. I am not crying once a day like I did when I was going through the many phases of diagnosis, treatment and recovery. My fake-it-till-you-make-it plan is finally paying off.

For the month of November, I didn't have one doctor appointment or scan. I didn't drive down to Boston and I feel temporarily removed from my world of cancer (until this six-week period ends and I'm back down to the city for the works).

With a cancer diagnosis, I don't think you ever get back a complete sense of security. With time, the space between those moments of feeling fine is longer. It may last for days or maybe weeks, but the thief is still there, waiting in the dark.

Cancer sucks. All of us patients, survivors and fighters — whatever word you want to use — we're all waiting to be able to take a full breath.

This Thanksgiving, as we do every year, my family went around in a circle before dinner to say what we are thankful for. I couldn't even begin to speak about how I really felt so I very quickly said, "My family."

I just couldn't go any deeper than that. The summer months of limping around and taking trips to Massachusetts General Hospital every two weeks was not that long ago. I remember not knowing what could happen this fall, this Thanksgiving. I've read one too many stories of people like me who die from this disease.

As much as these moments of not feeling fine knock the wind out of me, they remind me of all the millions of wonderous things in my life. Life is moving on whether I breathe or gasp. I feel terror and beauty all around me, but it's OK to feel them both — they've gotten me this far.

"I never been so alone. And I've never been so alive." - Third Eye Blind

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