After all this, now what now?
Now that my cancer is gone and I'm mostly recovered, I find myself wondering, what now? Do I just go back to the same old life? Unfortunately, as I start to contemplate options for post-cancer life, all too often I feel like I'm right back in the thick of it. Will I never stop developing new side effects from chemotherapy? And if not new effects, then the same old ones in new locations on my body? This past week I started itching. I noticed it first on my arms - a fine rash that feels almost like sandpaper. I thought maybe I was reacting to something I'd touched while doing yard work. But soon I realized it's also on my back, where it couldn't possibly have resulted from yard work. It's not red unless I scratch, but it's amazingly resistant to treatment. I have slathered myself with lotions for several days, to no avail. I checked the paperwork my oncologist supplied describing side effects. Skin rashes are listed along with suggested treatments, all basically what I'm already using.I thought I'd be past all this by now. It's as if the cancer, that really isn't there anymore, is having the last laugh - trying to steal my joy in recovery. I want to get back to normal. I want to focus on something other than cancer. I want to talk and think about anything but cancer. I know I should be out there joining in the various survivor events to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. I do care deeply about helping others avoid what I've been through. That is, and was, the whole purpose of writing about it. But now I'm so tired of the whole thing I don't want to even think about it. I want to get back to thinking about all the things I've had to lay aside for nearly a year, like my half-finished novel, my grandchildren, and the upcoming holidays. Still, I am desperate for something completely new to focus on. This desire has become so pervasive I'm even forgetting to ask my doctor the right questions, like what should I be doing to keep the cancer from coming back? Obviously, I won't be having annual mammograms anymore, but is there some other test I should have periodically? Are there specific cancel-fighting foods I should eat? I'm taking prescription estrogen blockers, vitamins and other supplements, but is there more I should do? My hair is about half an inch long now, but still as thin and wispy as it always was. When it gets long enough to style, I can quit wearing a wig. Maybe then I'll feel whole again. I have an appointment in a few days to have my infusion port removed. To me, that is a real rite of passage from cancer patient to cancer survivor. When that bothersome thing is out of my body I know I'll feel better. But what then? I have a new appreciation for every day, every moment, left in my life, and a new determination to live every one of them to the fullest. But doing what? Where? Why? It seems anticlimactic to go back to life as it always was. I have learned so much. Isn't there more I'm supposed to do with this knowledge? For the time being, all I do is pray. And, of course, that's much more than it would seem. It's heart preparation. In the words of an old song, "Lead me Lord, I will follow. Lead me Lord, I will go. You have called me, I will answer. Lead me Lord, I will go.