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When Cancer Changes the Dreams You Had for Yourself

Editor's Note

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There is comfort to be found in so many things when you are a human. However, the expanse of those things seems to shrink when you are a cancer patient.

And yet we go on.

The comfort of a big travel-themed dream. The comfort of familiarity in skiing the same slope that you have skied since childhood — although you know it ends in a cliff drop. The comfort in asking for small favors. These are all very much human, and become very much out of our reach when we are sick for a month, two months, three years and finally over seven.

And yet we go on.

From our big dreams, we have to release them slightly from the immediate to say “hopefully one day” rather than going through with our plans to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, one that we had been planning on for over a decade with a close friend. We say “oh, maybe next week” when thinking about a potential walk or hike or bike ride with a partner. Anything to keep that hope of adventure alive without telling ourselves that reality is, in fact, stronger than our dreams or wishes.

And yet we go on.

Our running, something in which we found so much comfort with the repetition of steps, the breaths that rushed in and out as if unbidden and instead because they were supposed to – that comfort is replaced by a familiar book or many-times played record and the thought that “I will get back to running someday, when things get better…”

And yet we go on.

We still maintain the words of “someday” and “this too shall pass,” smiling through gritted teeth because we know that we will likely have to wait many more months to fulfill our dreams and do not wish to settle for less. Luckily, some of that comfort does come to us easily, when we can get lost in the words on a page or a slow walk along a familiar road. The routine of treatment or the familiar “I am here if you need me, just call” said so many times by friends who are sometimes well-intentioned but still unaware. Our adventures are replaced, you see, by both the comfort that is required in order to adapt, and by patience required by that comfort.

And yet we go on.

Our “new normal” replaces our everyday. We begin to accept, because we have to, that we will never have children, never climb K2 (which likely would never have happened regardless, let’s stop kidding ourselves), and may never again visit the tops of peaks with our skis, faces primed for the wind and turned towards the sky to take in the feeling that we were, once, on top of the world. With great loss comes even greater acceptance, although the process is slow and terrible.

We still go on.

We begin to notice the joys in the little things: the laughter of a child in a park, the floppy ears of a new puppy, the delicious new food or drink, the continuous growing in love. We remember our dreams as “some-days” and look forward to our tomorrows, whatever they might hold. We feel loss, yes, all of the time. But we also feel grateful to feel at all. And when we dream, we are right back on that mountain, wind whipping our faces as we turn and fly down, invincible.

We always go on.

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