Last week I turned 34. I don't think I have ever been so happy to be a year older than I was this year. It was an emotional birthday for me, for many reasons. While I was so thankful for the day and felt so blessed that I was alive to even turn 34...I became emotional over the idea that my life isn't what it was when I turned 33. I have come to the realization that my life will never be the same. I know I have said it in previous posts, that us cancer warriors will never live the same life we had before, but it seems as though I am constantly teaching myself about this "new normal". Daily, I find myself just trying to figure this out. While the one side of me feels so damn lucky to see life the way I do now...I am challenged by trying to figure out where my new place in life is.
I think it is safe to say that before we heard the news we had cancer we lived our life in somewhat of a routine. Every day we wake up, we pretty much do the same thing we did the day before, and basically...our lives become a scaled down version of the movie Groundhog Day. Your alarm goes off at the same time everyday, you make coffee, go to work, come home, eat dinner, run kids around, and go to bed. Then you wake up and you do it all over again. Most people seem to take these simple daily tasks for granted. Then cancer happens...and your life suddenly becomes one big question mark with no set idea in your head for how the day ahead will go. All of those routines go flying out of the window and your just trying to figure out how to get through the day, wishing you had the ability to do half of those daily tasks. I think this begins from the very first day you get diagnosed. Whether your schedule has become filled with appointments yet or not, the emotional toll a cancer diagnosis takes on you is enough to send you off in to another world.
There are many points in life where you can look back and say you wish you would have done something different. I kind of wish I enjoyed high school a little more. I wish I would have played soccer longer. I wish I would have appreciated my parents more but on a side note, I have thankfully grown out of that and am very thankful for the amazing parents that I do have. I wish I would have cherished all of the amazing moments I got to experience as a child, as a teenager, and even as an adult. When I look back at my cancer, specifically fighting through chemo, I cant even imagine how I would have done anything any different than what I did. My worst side effect was fatigue. I spent A LOT of time in bed. I can look back and say, I wish I would have been more active through chemo, I wish I would have joined a support group, I wish I would have done this or done that. The fact of the matter is, I did the best I could. I know many women who go through chemo can probably relate to that. Every single day is different. I say all of this because I cannot honestly offer any sort of advice on what you should do to get through your chemo days. You just have to do whatever it is that feels right at the time. If it means sleep, you sleep. If it means read a book, read a book. If your able to workout one day, then workout, and if you cant workout for the next 10 then you don't workout until you can again. The whole point of this, is that a routine can be difficult while you go through chemo because every day is different both physically and emotionally. I think this might be what makes it so hard to find a routine post cancer. Finding yourself again, after all is said and done can be challenging.
Its for this reason, I feel as though the quote above is perfect for this particular post. Even post cancer, I find myself having days of total randomness. Some days, I have a hard time coping with what I just went through but the one thing I know every single day when I wake up...is that I have to keep moving forward. For me, moving forward means finding that "new normal", or my new routine, and accepting that it will take time to figure that out. This is something I am currently working on so there is no doubt it will be an ongoing lesson for me until I actually have something that works for me.
I am slowly realizing that it is important for me to discover the "new me". I have a hard time making set decisions on anything. Its almost like I just want everything to happen because I don't feel like putting the effort forth to think about anything. I know this is a sign of depression which absolutely sucks to even acknowledge or say out loud but I, personally, know I am doing my best. I have full intentions of doing everything I can to keep that depression from happening but it's real. It exists and I am not going to lie or be dishonest in this blog about what I am going through. I KNOW I am not alone and its important you know you are not alone either. It is also important to acknowledge your feelings and pay attention to them. When I say pay attention, I mean you have to do something about them or they will eat you away.
So, how do you find a routine post cancer? I am still learning but this is what I have come up with so far. First of all, be patient with yourself. Give yourself realistic expectations. Make lists of things that you want to accomplish and go through that list and check them off as you complete them. I think its rewarding and does so much for you mentally to see what you have accomplished for the day. Try and put one thing on that list you enjoy doing. If it means "read for 20 minutes" or "bake a cake" or "crochet a hat"...just try not to put a bunch of crap you need to get done just to get through the day on your list.
I am not going to tell you to have a set bedtime and set your alarm for the same time every morning. Why? Because, I know as well as the next cancer patient, that you take what you can get with your sleep. If I was confident I could get through a night with 8 hours of peaceful sleep, not waking up to a hot flash or with crazy thoughts going through my brain, then yes that might be an option. For now, I will enjoy whatever shut eye time is given to me.
I've found that I need to immediately put a note in my phone as soon as I think there is something that I need to do or else I will completely forget I ever had to do it. This includes everything, for example: "don't forget to finish the laundry" even after I just put it in the washer. For now, this is what I have to do.
Join a gym. It took me awhile to finally make this decision but I knew how good it would be for me, mentally. Not to mention, it lowers your risk of recurrence....so they say. Join a support group. Find different programs that are offered in your area for breast cancer patients. For example, in San Antonio, they offer a free workout program, artful healing classes, and free nutritional counseling. Not only do you get a great work out but you also open up the door to meet other women who are going through exactly what you are going through.
The reality is this. I have these moments where I think to myself...I cant believe I am at a place in my life where I need to join support groups and make lists so I don't forget to do things, and I need to think more carefully about the food I put in my mouth including alcohol, and I'm 34 and I have no clue what direction my life is going in currently. Following those thoughts is reminding myself...ITS OKAY!!!! Remind yourself of what you have just been through. No one is being as hard on you as you are being on yourself. So I will remind you...to give yourself realistic expectations each day. If you make yourself a list and you don't complete it, give yourself a break. Give yourself time to teach yourself a new routine. Give yourself time to find your new normal. Remind yourself of everything you have to be thankful for in that moment instead of focusing on the things that tore you up over the last several months. More importantly than anything else...Teach yourself how to be patient with you. I think its something very important for us to learn how to do. I've come to realize that I am putting way too much pressure on myself to be "normal" again when I don't even know what "normal" is right now. I don't know how long it will take for me to figure out what my "normal" is but I am confident I will figure it out. I am confident that I will learn how to live with all of this, it just may take time, and that's okay.
Ive realized that I am not going to learn how to live my life again overnight. Its going to take time but for today....if I cant fly, then I am going to run, and if I cant run then I am going to walk, and if I cant walk then I will crawl...and if for some reason I cant crawl...then I will just continue moving forward because the other option is giving up on life...and that just simply isn't an option. If nothing else...if nothing else at all...I will be thankful for the day that lies ahead.
Fill your schedule up with positivity and a positive mind will follow.