Have you ever felt like a ghostly, transparent version of yourself? How does one pick up the pieces after a six-month absence from everything that was once a normal part of your life? I know I am not the only one wrestling with that question. There are no easy answers.
Everyone is experiencing this pandemic is different ways. For me, the Covid-19 lockdown was added as icing on the cake to a cancer diagnosis back at the end of January. I don’t believe in luck or I would be saying I was one of the lucky ones. Instead, I see it as a gift from God that things moved very quickly, and I was able to have both my surgeries before the hospitals started their strict protocols and the shutting down of all elective surgeries. I still find it hard to understand how cancer surgery could be considered elective yet many of them, if not all, ended up being postponed. I am thankful that my case was not put on hold and I was able to go on and receive all the treatments I needed. I’m happy to report that it was a success.
A friend who just passed her 5th anniversary of being cancer-free had some important insights to share from her own story. She told me that the months following the end of treatment can be just as challenging as the treatments themselves. Often when you are in the middle of the process, all you can do is focus on getting through the “next thing”. It isn’t until you pass the finish line that you are able to let down and begin to process the experience. Just when you think you ought to be able to coast on into your old life, you realize it just isn’t that simple. Add in the changes to daily life that we are all experiencing right now, and the difficulty multiplies.
Even being forewarned, I still somehow thought it would be easier. I have found myself struggling to know how to move forward from here. There doesn’t seem to be a playbook to follow. I still get tired easily. I am more emotional (even more than usual, I mean), and I wind up feeling overwhelmed by things that I would normally have taken in my stride. Low-level depression on most days makes it difficult to get up and start anything. I have not been able to get back to my writing in any meaningful way and that bothers me.
All of this could, of course, be a bi-product of the ongoing hormone blockers I will be taking for the next seven years or so. It also sounds like what many are going through as a result of the physical distancing and isolation the pandemic has necessitated. For one reason or another, I laid down all the pieces of my life back in early February, and now that it is time to start picking them up I am not even sure if I want to. Which of those pieces should I let go of, and where should I focus my still-somewhat-limited energies? How do I begin?
Firstly, I am told I need to cut myself some slack in all this. Unrealistic expectations only lead to frustration and guilt. I’ve asked God to help me discern what it is that I CAN do rather than what I only WISH I could do. There are some pieces of my life that will continue to be set aside, at least for now.
Secondly, I need to recognize that where I’m at today is not my “new normal” for the foreseeable future despite what the literature says about side effects of hormone blockers. There are things I can do to improve my energy levels and my mood. Once again, I am reminded that I have the power to choose when it comes to exercise and diet. When I’ve had a bad day and failed miserably, instead of giving up I can start again. If I do my part, I know I can trust God for the rest.
I walk for exercise. To date, I have managed to increase my distance to 2.5 km. That may not seem like much, but I remind myself that I am carrying a little extra weight these days, a 40-pound pack to be exact. It makes a difference. I managed to lose 4 of those pounds which also may not seem like much, but I’ve decided to celebrate these baby steps. At least they are movement in the right direction.
As to my writing, it’s never been so difficult. Yesterday, I went to a park to sit under a tree and do some cursive free-flow, jotting down random thoughts as they popped into my head. It is said that those sorts of exercises help unlock the creative side of your brain. Today’s post is the result. It’s a small beginning and even the smallest beginnings deserve to be celebrated. It leaves me feeling hopeful and that’s a good place to start.