The anger has left. It didn’t happen gradually. It just disappeared. I woke up one morning this week and realized I was not upset. And then I realized I had slept all night without the help of a sleeping pill. Oh, don’t get me wrong- I still think about cancer constantly. It consumes my day and leaves me restless, still unable to focus. But it is manageable, today anyway. I have crossed a rocky shore and can now feel the soft sand between my toes. I can relax.
I have tried to figure out what I have done differently. I suppose one change is that I am no longer hiding. For some reason I have difficulty understanding or explaining, I have kept my cancer a secret for the most part. Oh yes, I have written about it, and I have told a select few about it (mostly by email), but I was embarrassed and avoided disclosing this information to people I deal with every day. When I learned of my diagnosis, I told my immediate supervisor because I knew I would need to take a day or two off (haha, a day or two! I was so naive!). But I didn’t tell my main boss. I told no one else at work. It was only after my surgery that I finally came clean, when I realized that the strain of hiding it from my employer would be too great, that I would need to rearrange my schedule a bit to accommodate treatments. Then I told one or two others at work, but the rest I dodged as skillfully as possible. I wanted no one to know. This has taken its toll on me.
My first foray into the public world was through a writing group. I brought the manuscript of my cancer experience for feedback, and it was nerve wracking. I don’t know what I expected, but what I got was positive feedback on my writing and compassion for my experience. I survived exposure.
Then I told a friend that I was falling to pieces, couldn’t get a grip on my reality. He knew about my cancer, had been there the whole time during my treatment, but he was surprised because, as usual, I was hiding my pain and confusion so well. He mentioned that hiding might not be the best approach since others pick up on the subtleties of behavior, and if there is no rational explanation for the way a person is acting, others become confused and possibly assign meaning to those behaviors, and not necessarily positive. So I stepped back and had to wonder, what do other acquaintances think about me? It is unfortunate, but the majority of people I know in this town I met after my diagnosis. Yet they know nothing about what I have been going through. So did they think I was odd, unfriendly, unstable as I stumbled through the world of medicine and sickness, blind to activities beyond its borders? I could beat myself up for that, but a person is only capable of doing what they are capable of at the moment. For me, my mechanism for dealing was to try to do it on my own, in secret. I can say that hasn’t worked too well, but I needed to find that out on my own. And I needed to come to accept that my life will not necessarily be defined by cancer from now on, but it will be marked by it. How can something that is so much a part of you not be revealed?
I decided to quit hiding. I didn’t run out and make a public announcement, but I did tell a few more people when the time was appropriate. Then I started this blog. Perhaps no one will read this, but the fact that it is out there on the internet makes it public. That has a psychological effect that is cathartic (as another friend described it) in nature. It is an avenue of healing, and it gives me an outlet for my thoughts. It also gives me a purpose- to write. For this I can focus.
So will my mood last? Who knows? There is a little part of me that waits apprehensively for the other shoe to drop, but for the moment I seem to be ok. I will still talk to my oncologist about support groups or other resources, just in case. But I will take my mood at face value and enjoy it. After all, as I have been so brutally reminded, I only have today.
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