I have been writing about cancer surviorship and running for over four years now, and sometimes I find it hard to believe. When I first started writing the ideas just flowed from me. I was still a "fresh" cancer survivor, with the experience still etched in my mind. This year, in August, I will be seven years cancer free. The experience of the double mastectomies and chemotherapy are further behind me. In a way I have made peace with it. I am also a more experienced runner.
Looking back, I think the start of this was therapeutic. It was good for the soul to let out all that emotion while feeling I could help others. I suppose it was either writing or succumbing to my emotions in other less constructive ways.
And so I chose to write.
There was much to write about during those early days. Topics that are obvious to a cancer survivor, through experience, but really important information to have for a patient about to start chemotherapy. Take, for example, the steroids that a cancer patient must take prior to a round of chemotherapy. They are prescribed, in part, to help control nausea; a side effect of the treatment. When I started treatment, I too was on steroids prior to treatment. Once over, I went home feeling like superwoman. I could rule the world, go for a five kilometre run, make a gourmet dinner and clean every nook and cranny in the house in half a day. I had eight arms. I was a queen! I rocked!
This great energy lasted for less than 48 hours, after which I came crashing down from my throne. By then, after my first of eight treatments, I recall one dinner with my family where I burst into tears and said that I didn't think I was going to be able to make it through my treatment. You should know that I am definitely not the type of person that gets depressed like this.
If the professionals at the hospital would have told me to expect this crash after treatment, I wouldn't have been taken by surprise. Instead, I was overwhelmed, and frightened.
And so I write for those who are in the same situation. Those who are vulnerable and scared. Those who turn to the internet and social media for information from other survivors who have already been there. A place where cancer patients can find a shoulder to lean on. A place where they can voice their fear and their pain.
As time goes on, the emotional need is lessened, and the passion of survivorship takes somewhat of a back seat to a sense of contentment and peace. Now the work of the first few years of survivorship is done, and it's time to refine it. Since my promotion to the illustrious role of cancer survivor, I have changed as a person. I have learned how to respect myself and put myself first (although I have been known to regress from time to time...). I know the importance of taking time outs, and listening to the wisdom of my inner voice. I have learned, and deeply appreciate, how to meditate. In short, my perspective in life has completely changed.
I even see people in a different way. I'm more open to talk to strangers and smile at those who need a little pick me up in their day. As I look at the faces of strangers, I sometimes wonder what's behind their mask. Are they happy or suffering? I always send good thoughts their way.
And on my many hours of travel by train to my work, I meditate or read....From inspirational stories to those that make you laugh. This is my learning platform. A platform from which I will continue to grow.
So I believe I have come to a new phase of survivorship. One that is exciting, challenging and gratifying. One that still has many lessons to teach. One where listening is key. One that I would be honoured if you continue to run beside me on this amazing journey .