It worked. My determination to look forward and focus on the future really did help to pull me out of my funk and get me back on track. But what I also realized was that I couldn’t keep (and I can hear certain people snorting at this even before the words hit the screen) burying myself in work and denying anything is different. So I decided to finally – one year later – face cancer.
Just after my last blog entry called Facing Forward, I was on Dana-Farber’s website and found that a new session was starting called – ironically – Facing Forward After Breast Cancer Treatment. As you’ve probably figured out, while I love talking to people about their problems and helping them figure everything out, I’m not the biggest fan about talking to others about my feelings, especially if it could bring tears. But I realized that if I’m ever really going to move forward, this could really help. So I went.
It was the first time I’ve ever been in a room where the vast majority of women had hair practically the same inch or so length as mine – made me smile! As did hearing why these sessions were created: “Life as you know it is changed. You’re vulnerable. You’ve lost some control. You have a sense of time being limited.” Yup, yup, yup, yup. “During treatment you’re busy, focused on fighting. Then it all stops. The transition can be very difficult. People assume since you’re done with treatment you should be ready to move on. And you feel guilty for not being there yet.” Exactly. Clearly I was in the right place.
It was explained to us that this is a “psycho education group.” So not a straight support group exactly, but a combo with expert speakers, the first being a medical oncologist. You would think after all the time I’ve spent with doctors during the last year that I would know it all – but I learned several new things – and felt good that I was able to answer some questions for others and help them, too. Some of what surprised me, I think I have heard before but probably just didn’t want to believe – or hoped that I’d be the exception. Not seeming so… As many of you know, I’ve been frustrated because I’m not back to where I was running-wise. Well, one thing I learned was that fatigue typically lasts about two years after treatment. Two years!!! So I guess my slow three miles (more walking than running), three months our of treatment, is better than nothing. You know what else can last two years? The neuropathy – the numb tingling feeling in my fingers and feet. I’m so sick of that – but guess it may be around a while longer…
But I’m here. And I’m basically healthy. And I have the best friends and family in the world. And I love my job. So I’m happy. And thankful. And I’m on the right track.
So I didn’t stop there. On Saturday, I took another step: I went to the Young Adult Cancer Conference at Dana-Farber. And I was really glad I did. More than the sessions, it was meeting other people around my age who have faced (or are facing) cancer, that made it such a worthwhile day. Everyone has a story, and they are all so compelling, no matter how straight forward they are. Kicking off the day was Mike Lang, a cancer survivor who, with his wife Bonnie, has completely transformed his life to help others facing cancer by taking them on adventures through Survive and Thrive Expeditions, as well as helping them tell their stories through movies, like Wrong Way to Hope. He shared his amazing story and clips from his latest venture: Valleys, which you can watch on Huff Post – Generation Why. Try to watch any of his work without shedding a tear – I dare you! It is so raw and true – we can all relate. What I really love is his motto: Reflect. Refocus. Rebuild. Live. Yup – that is exactly what I am doing!