So today was The End – my last radiation treatment. Tomorrow morning I will wake up whenever my eyes happen to open and have absolutely nothing on my plate. Sure there are a few chores to be done, some honeydos to cross off the list and some TV to watch, but there’s not a one of those that has anything to do with cancer. I’m sitting here at the computer right at this moment, and all is right with the world. No aches, no pains, no itches, no coughs, no labored breathing. For this moment in time, I get to feel like a completely normal human being. It’s easy to forget that feeling after a few years.
As I sit here, scratching my shoulder since I was dumb enough to mention not itching, I realize it may be time to start looking back. Time for a cancer retrospective. Wait – no. That brings to mind ends of careers and TV shows. Less a retrospective and more an answer to a question. It’s a question I often find myself asking at the end of just about anything major I do (or stop doing) : What did I learn from all of this?
After all, I had cancer fer chrissakes. If you can’t learn a thing or two from this sort of experience, then you really need to look into your study habits. So I’ve been thinking about this whole thing over the past couple of days, running words and ideas through my head, hoping to run across something Poignant and Touching that would Stay With All of Us Forever and Ever. After a bit of that kind of thinking, I finally got over myself and just started thinking about the real answer to the question, audience be dam… err.. forgotten. For the moment. Yeah.
As I ran through different ideas and concepts and, well, things, I realized that I have a few different things I can take away from this whole experience.
- I’m much stronger than I once imagined. Not to brag or anything, but before this, I had always suspected that I had something like strength inside me. Something that set me just a little bit apart from a lot of the people around me. Whether it was getting back on the motorcycle after a big wreck, getting back on my skates after stopping a puck with my head, or just not whining about my latest cold, I had picked up over the years that my brain and my body handled things differently than other people. Cancer has just cemented those feelings in my mind and brought out my inner badass. I’m constantly running into people who are amazed at the way I’ve held up through all of these trials. The way I show up to my appointments with a smile and shrug off the pain, exhaustion and general misery that comes with this whole cancer thing. Do you want to know my secret? All you need is the strength to pick your times of strength. Am I strong 24/7? Hell no. Am I strong every second I’m in public? Every chance I get. Everyone expects you to be weak. To be tired. To be defeated. Why should you do what other people expect?
- Breaks that are repaired make those spots stronger. I know what that means in my head, though it doesn’t make a lot of sense when I type it. Here’s what I’m saying: If you take a stick, break it, then glue it back together, that spot becomes one of the strongest in the length of the stick. Assuming you’ve done the repair correctly, of course. What do sticks have to do with all of this? That stick is my spirit. I wasn’t strong 24/7 – not even close. I had a couple of major breakdowns in the course of all this, along with several smaller ones. But each time I was broken, I made the repairs and now I’m stronger for having broken. You can show your strong side to the world, but know that at some point, you’re probably going to break. When you do, you just need to glue yourself back together and you’ll be stronger for it.
- The world is full of amazing people. This is something you just can’t learn until you have some Major Life Changing Event. I’m often one of the first people to go around hating humanity in general, typically when I’ve been driving for a little while. This whole experience has reminded me of just how amazing people can really be when they’re needed. All of my family and friends have been exceptional, from the closest of the close to those we only see once a year or less. Everyone has been absolutely incredible. The doctors and nurses and affiliated medical workers have been amazing. Sure, it’s their job to take care of me, but I didn’t run into a single one who had been hardened by the whole Cancer Experience. The vets were just as loving, caring and optomistic as the rookies. The folks I’ve met over on the Hodgkin’s Forum have been spectacular and an amazing source of support for both Barb and I. They’ve managed to get us over some big bumps in all of this and hopefully we’re doing the same for them. Last but not least is you – the reader of this blog. Assuming you’re not already in one of the previously mentioned groups, you’re probably one of the folks who stumbled into me from a link somewhere or a mention from a friend. I’ve received a lot of emails from you folks and they’ve all touched my heart in one way or another. I also promise that one of these days I’m going to get around to responding to them all 🙂 I got a little behind with the hospital stays and all.
- Rest is very important.While I have learned a few more things, this is one of the more important ones. And having learned this one, I’m going to go to bed and continue this tomorrow.