Today is supposed to be the day. It’s been circled on my calendar for months, in RED. That means it’s important, right?
Today, July 5, 2023, is supposed to be the day when everything is “back to normal”.
I circled this date on my calendar on March 28, 2023, the day before my breast cancer surgery. I remember walking down here into my cubby hole of a workspace and making that declaration to myself. I didn’t know back then what the exact path of my treatment and recovery was going to look like. But given what the doctors had told me about the most likely scenario, I was ready then to declare that today would be the day I would be “back to work”.
I prepared myself last night, logging into my email, checking my calendar, and confirming an important meeting.
What I didn’t do was walk into this office where I now sit having a bit of an anxiety attack. I didn’t look around at the piles of stuff I’d been dumping down here for three months, taking an “I’ll deal with this in July” attitude. I didn’t let myself mentally think about how I might suddenly make the warp-speed jump from the security of the recliner I’ve been rocking for the past few months to the reality of what “back to work” really means.
“Back” implies going backward, to something that feels familiar.
It’s hard to describe exactly what I’m feeling these days. This, how I feel today, feels entirely not like going backward. It feels more like diving into the deep end of a very dark body of water without any sense of what lies beneath it. It’s partially enticing, partially terrifying.
Physically, I am in a pretty good place. I’m largely recovered from the ten-hour surgery I had three months ago. My radiation-burned skin is no longer peeling. My scars, which in my mind rival Frankenstein’s, are normalizing into what they will likely be for the rest of my life. I battle fatigue but have allowed myself to say “no” when I need to. I haven’t yet started the dual pill medication that will be my ongoing treatment for the next five years. I have been doing physical therapy and walking regularly. I even managed to get on my bike this weekend.
Emotionally, I will admit to being a bit of a wreck. I have a weird brain fog going on that keeps me from being able to remember more than one thing at a time. The few attempts that I’ve made to write anything in the past few months made me very grateful for my excellent editors. Persistently, I am fighting a battle with anxiety that is unlike anything I’ve faced in the past. It’s hard to describe, but it eats at me almost constantly, gnawing away at the parts of me that felt like certainties for so many years. I have a good counselor, but there is ongoing work that I will need to do, and it’s not easy work.
Part of the way I feel may have to do with the fact that in the midst of my finishing radiation treatments, I also turned sixty. Even had I not been fighting Stage 3 cancer, that little personal age milestone probably would have led me to some time of mental processing about what I will do with this next chapter of my life.
This morning, I came down into my workplace, let myself have a good freakout, and tried to go about my business. I told myself that if the only things I accomplished today were to log onto that meeting and to clean out one of my piles, I would count today as a victory. I managed to do both!
After the meeting, while journaling, I pulled out a slip of paper from a pot that is a new fixture on my desk. Kit, a good friend of mine from church, gave me this pot shortly after my surgery. It was filled with small slips of paper, uplifting cards, and other little trinkets of love. Kit is the most thoughtful person. Whenever I see her, she typically hands me a little something. Those gifts usually make their way into this pot, waiting for a moment when I need a “pick me up”. About a month ago, I moved Kit’s pot onto my desk, as if I knew that I might need some motivation when I went “back to work”.
After this morning’s meeting, I sat to do my daily journaling. Somewhat at a loss for words (not a normal problem for me!), I was drawn to pull something out of Kit’s pot. Out came a small blue slip of paper with the exact words I needed to read today:
Transformation: Change happens when you take responsibility for your awareness and apply it to your everyday life, small moment by small moment.Wisdom from Kit’s Pot
I am being transformed, one small moment by the next. On this day, I am not going “back” to anything. I am diving headlong into what lies ahead, whatever that may be. I am fundamentally a different person, not simply because I am a year older or a diagnosis different.
The anxiety I feel these days relates not only to what is happening with me medically. Change of any kind brings trepidation. I need to reconnect with the part of myself that loves the unknown. It’s time to give the recliner a break and head back into whatever this journey of mine brings next.
I have told myself repeatedly since my diagnosis that now is not the time for any big decisions in my life. I’m not in my right mind. But I’m also not allowing myself to simply sit in the unknown, stymied by all of the “what if” emotions I feel these days.
I’m being transformed–emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually. If you are too, feel free to come along for this ride. I think it will be interesting.
A question for you: What type of transformation are you facing in your life? What type of transformation do you desire?