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June 2005
18 Months after treatments ended 
and 3 years from diagnosis

The other morning my mother happened to call and I said, " I am so glad you called. I want you to know how happy I am, this morning, to be alive!" She anxiously replied, "What happened…what's wrong?" It never occurred to me that she would take it that way. "Ma, most mornings I wake up aware that I am just thrilled to be here, you know, alive. You just happened to call as I needed to tell someone."

The truth of the matter is I don't take things like wakening up to a sunny day, or a rainy day or any day for granted anymore. It may sound a little "Pollyanna-ish" but life has become a most excellent adventure. I take most everything in stride and the things that used to cause stress in my life either amuse me or challenge me in a much more productive way.

I didn't realize until recently that even when I thought my brain had checked out completely there was a lot of growth going on. I was too weary to concentrate on reading all of the greatest novels ever written and I had no patience for lying on the couch watching TV (an excellent option for some but not for me). I spent what I could of my few waking hours while I was not working helping friends as they renovated their homes and decorated their offices. I even helped a friend design an event for an episode of DESIGNERS CHALLENGE on HGTV and we won. It was just nice to be able to feel creative and I could come and go, as I wanted with no tiresome responsibility. I learned a lot while watching renovations go down to the studs and I had the time to be on the site when things like cabinetry, countertops and flooring where getting installed. I didn't realize it at the time but I was also amassing a team of talented craftsmen and contractors whose work I could trust.

I had thought that because I was self-employed I couldn't get disability of any kind. When I became absolutely incapable of staying awake long enough to drive and couldn't retain any information my chemo doctor suggested that I apply for SSD (Social Security Disability). It was not enough to live on but it was enough to let me rest. The remainder of our financial existence, beyond my hubby's salary (and all the overtime he could get) was taken from savings and eventually charged. By the end of the three years we had a lot of catching up to do. After a brush with my own mortality I was not going to let money concerns keep me up at night, as I would have in the past. I let it go, I trusted we would find our way.

It was challenging at first because I still needed a lot of sleep and I was afraid to trust my memory. I still carried an alarm clock with me in the car so that I could sleep in between appointments and I sometimes needed to sleep for an hour before I headed back home. I kept my "chemo brain" pad with me at all times and I tried to place orders as quickly as I could and kept better records (than I used to) of all transactions.

I am enjoying everything more and I can't help believing that it is contagious to both the other professionals I am working with as well as my clients. I always exuded confidence but now I actually feel the confidence I project. I have a much more instinctual sense of the creative decision-making process than ever before and I have a greater understanding of the value of team building with the people I am working with. I no longer need to be right or have all the answers. I am much more open to learning from the ideas and experience of others.

Several weeks ago I realized that I did not need to nap much during the week anymore and best of all I trusted my brain again. I can honestly say that my mental faculties have completely returned.

Life post cancer is not without some challenges as well. I have some huge residual fears that cause interesting results. Posttraumatic stress disorder is not unusual for cancer survivors. Do I live each day as if it could be my last or do I allow myself to plan ahead, you know, for the future? I had a period of many months where I was working 7 days a week, almost manic because I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I feel pressure to fit a lifetime of goals and dreams into every day, month and year?

I have had to concentrate on the fastest possible way to catch up financially and trust that I will have the time in my life, my future, to accomplish all of the things that I want to. Chemochicks.com has been another great lesson in the benefits of trusting others. My team here at chemochicks is keeping us alive and growing, filling your orders and planning far ahead. I am just beginning to create the time that I need to do my part. Hearing from all of our chicks and caregivers has been a constant source of inspiration for all of us.

Some days I am self-indulgent, I nap because I want to and I almost miss the days of no responsibility. Later, I regret having "wasted time." Do I assert self-discipline and get up early to exercise so that I will become as healthy as possible or roll back over and hug the nearest kitty because it feels good at the moment. Do I watch everything I eat so I will lose weight and gain health or do I have another cookie because it tastes good, now?

I somehow expected to instinctually keep the good habits I tried to create while I was recuperating. For example, I know that walking every day was tantamount to my strength both mentally and physically. Why is it so hard to schedule in, now?

I need to learn to create balance; I need to learn how to trust that I will have a future and that is worth planning for by making the best choices that I can, now.

My new motto (watch for the T shirt):

WORK HARD… PLAY HARD… TAKE NAPS!

 

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