Cancer is time-specific. A lot of time is spent waiting. Waiting for results, waiting for tests, waiting until you can have treatment, waiting until you have recovered from one treatment to have the next treatment, waiting to heal from surgery, waiting for side effects to disappear. The list is endless.
Waiting, as I’ve recently discovered, is daunting. I wonder how many minutes, hours and days are wasted waiting for time to pass. But I’m not waiting on health professionals today, though. Today I’m waiting for me.
Today I’m waiting to feel like my old normal self. I’m waiting to feel carefree, bogged down only by life’s minor impracticalities. I’m waiting to wake up worrying that I haven’t put the bins out or hoping that it’s my day off and I don’t have to jump up at “silly” o’clock and get ready for school. I’m waiting to see if I will get mildly irritated that my son will ask me what’s for breakfast this morning even though he’s more than capable of making his own.
I’m waiting for the unattainable, and I’m waiting in vain. It’s like waiting for the last train that you know isn’t coming.
I will feel those feelings again about work, bins and breakfast, but never again in their own exclusivity. After my cancer bombshell, I can only feel those feelings alongside “cancer fears.” Cancer fear is the monkey on my shoulder that grows in stature, depending on my inner feelings. Some days it’s a huge gorilla, making me wonder if the ache in my stomach is stomach cancer or if the headache I’ve had all morning is a brain tumor or a rash is skin cancer. Or cancer fear can be just the fear of your cancer metastasizing at a later date or that your cancer has not been fully removed and will come back again.
This cancer fear is there every time I open my eyes. Sometimes it’s just a little monkey allowing me to immerse myself as much as possible into the normality of everyday tasks like the school run, shopping and defrosting the freezer.
Today, this fear is attempting gorilla status, and as I lie on my living room rug wrapped in my son’s arms, I wish and hope we can have many more years of hugs and try hard not to think about my own mortality as I press my cheek against his. I enjoy the feel of his skin against mine and soak up the moment. “The old normal” will never come, so instead I make a deal with myself to enjoy the moment and embrace the new normal.
I read somewhere that happiness is allowing yourself to be perfectly OK with “what is,” rather than wishing for and worrying about “what is not.” “What is” is what’s supposed to be, or it would not be. The rest is just you, arguing with life.
I think about that for a minute while reveling in the warmth of my son’s cheek, waiting for him to stir and gently detach my cheek from his.
A version of this post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
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