A native New Yorker, Shira Kallus Zwebner is a communications consultant and writer living with her husband and three children in Jerusalem, Israel. Diagnosed in 2017 with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, she's fighting her cancer battle and blogging about the journey at hipstermomblog.com
Being a cancer survivor means that I'm living on borrowed time and struggling to find the balance.
My therapist warned me not to take on too much after finishing treatment for Stage IV non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
She cautioned that lifestyle changes should be more gradual, thoughtful and purposeful. But as soon as they removed my PICC line and I received the news that there was No Evidence of Disease (NED), I took off sprinting. The proverbial gunshot rang out and I was hurtling down the racetrack, the finish line of life forever in my mind with the ticking of the countdown clock beating like a drum in my head.
Since finishing treatment, I've made lifestyle changes and tackled my bucket list with ferocious intensity. Quickly, I ticked off boxes: rent office space at WeWork, change my daughter's school, take the family to Rome, hire a personal trainer and start boxing again, work on my nutrition and go on a diet, Marie Kondo my entire house from top to bottom, exercise every day, get a puppy, take on some more writing assignments, become part of an urban garden, mediate every day for at least 15 minutes at a time, take weekly Pilates classes, schedule monthly facials, schedule more date nights with my husband, spend more quality time with the kids, learn how to bake babka, schedule some more girls nights with friends, plan an epic summer for the family, learn how to budget better, work more hours to get out of cancer debt, etc.
Mid way through this month, I realized just how tired I've been feeling. A serious relapse scare around the six-month mark took a couple of weeks to get over; the fear of reoccurrence put me into overdrive, as I try to live a lifetime in each and every day.
Slowly, these lifestyle changes became too difficult to sustain. I left WeWork, went back to working from my home and stopped exercising every day. I stuck with anything that paid the bills or was attached with a firm deadline but started canceling Pilates classes and missing weekly meetings of our urban gardening club. Pulling myself out of bed every morning at 6:00 a.m. to take care of the puppy, make school lunches and see the kids off in the morning became harder and harder. I started eating sugar again as the feelings of failure started to weigh heavily on my shoulders.
I desperately want a nap, but since I'm on borrowed time, I feel like it's selfish for me to slow down. What right do I have to take a break from all the living I want to do when I've been granted that precious yet fragile second chance at living?
For today, I just give in to that struggle and continue to work on processing all that I've been through. I'm hopeful that I'll eventually find that balance. It's just going to take some time.