Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Will I ever be "cured"?

I dared to ask my oncologist how long it would be before I was considered “cured.” It has been a difficult 6 months, and from time to time, my psyche is a mess. Do I have cancer, or had I had cancer? The answer: Unlike people with cancers that are considered "cured" after two or five years of remission, with breast cancer you’re cured when you die of something else. Everyone expects you to get back to your old self after treatment, but fears about recurrence can make life hell. Although I am not “cured”, I am “healing". I am settling into that remarkable place we can find, with work and determination, where we understand that cancer does not come and then go. Cancer comes and stays. And if we face it head on, it can become a part of us that takes us to a new level of understanding. I realize that I will live the rest of my life with the uncertainty I have been handed. It has been easy to stuff all the feelings of cancer—fear, tears, anger, anxiety—into a box that I keep tightly locked in my gut.
When my cancer was diagnosed, I poured all my time and energy and feelings into gathering and understanding information—what I call “head work.” During chemo, I was surrounded by friends and family bringing food and taking care of me. Now that the chemo treatment has ended, I am left feeling discombobulated. I am still grappling with the feelings of cancer, but everyone around me is expecting me to return to “normal". I understand the journey beyond “cured” to “healed.” Cured will always be about the body, the physical self. Healed is about the soul and spirit, recognizing that “self” goes beyond blood and bone to another dimension. Or, put simply: To be well is to be cured. To be whole is to be healed. I have taken control of my life again.

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