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'Play in Your Socks' and Other Advice for Those Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

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It’s a Sunday Fall morning in New England. Youngest is playing football in the yard with his camp friends.

Correction: Youngest is being the referee while two of them play in their bare socks (on the wet grass) and the others are laughing at my son who isn’t doing a good job keeping score. It is music to my ears because this is what life is. What life should be.

Laughter. And not caring you’re ruining your socks.

It has been a tough week for me at times. Trying to figure out why I’m not feeling myself. The “hard part” is over. Shouldn’t I be done with all this “cancer cancer cancer mind?”

This has been hard for me to wrap my head around, but a dear friend just reminded me — there is no deadline.

I don’t need to be following a timeline of when I should be feeling better.

When I should be accepting my new self.

When I should be back to my old self.

This pressure we put on ourselves as cancer survivors is just one added pressure of living with breast cancer.

Yes, we are living with it because remember — no cures. Just NEDs (no evidence of disease).

So for months now since I’ve been finished with chemo and radiation, I keep waiting.

Waiting to feel like myself.

Waiting to feel better.

Waiting for something to come down and smack me on the head and say this is what you will look like in three months.

Six months.

Two years.

But there is no playbook here.

No one — no one — gets to tell you when you should be feeling like your old self.

New self.

Boobless self.

New breast self.

One breast self.

I think some may choose to forget they ever had cancer. It was a chapter in their life that is now put away in a suitcase, collecting cobwebs.

Some may be more private. You wouldn’t have known until months later that they even had cancer. They chose to keep to themselves. (For the record, I don’t recommend this and neither do some physicians. You need a support system. It is imperative to your healing.)

Am I using a ton of emphasized words in this post? It’s because I’m just realizing I will not follow a timeline.

Big huge exhale.

I have learned my feelings are just that. My feelings. And they can’t be wrong because they are feelings. And no one can tell me I shouldn’t be feeling this way or it’s silly to feel this way because… well one, because you are not me.

But mainly because there are no shoulda coulda woulda’s when it comes to an illness.

Apply this in your daily life the next time someone dismisses your feelings. They are your feelings people. There is no right or wrong.

I have been pushing myself to become normal again, but I’m not sure what normal is anymore for me, and I’ve come to accept this is OK.

I’m still me, but maybe there are parts of me that are new. And that’s OK.

With new chapters comes new feelings and new changes, and maybe cancer has been a change in my life that will make me do things differently.

And maybe some of us need a good smack on the head to take a leap and try new things and realize we can be doing more.

Or less.

Or differently.

I want to remind you — you can be who you want to be when you grow up. You don’t need to follow anyone’s timeline but your own.

Stop worrying about what others think.

Your feelings matter.

Your voice matters.

Play outside in your socks.

And laugh.

This post was previously published in Eat the Frosting First.

Thinkstock photo by Angel Gruber

Originally published: October 26, 2017
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