I am never able to use the changing of seasons as metaphor for the changes in my life.
For a simple reason really: More than it being a trite cliché, I’ve never been outside the Philippines in my 29 years of being alive.
I have never seen firsthand the leaves switching color palettes every quarter until they wilt and fall to the ground. I have never seen trees go into hibernation, be covered in snow, and then watch them come back to life.
In the Philippines, we go from heat wave to rain deluge in the span of one day—and this, if anything, best describes my temperament more than the changes in my life.
But I digress.
I spent that last three years of my life just trying to survive.
I stopped dreaming. I stopped wondering what will happen five years from now. I stopped believing in love. I stopped picturing myself watching the Northern Lights with my jaw dropping while I ugly cry.
My life was a series of what-will-I-do-in-the-next-24-hours. I needed to take it one day at a time, or else I’ll be overwhelmed with how my life was spiraling out of control. Life had no structure for me then other than my treatment schedules, regular tests, and regular checkups.
But for the past three months, I found myself thrown back into a routine of wake up, eat, work, eat, and then sleep. Wash and repeat.
And it wasn’t as easy as remembering how to swim after years of staying away from water. If anything, I found myself swimming in a different sea. I’m still floating, but somehow, the unfamiliar depths unnerve me.
A cancer survivor friend recently passed away. He was one of the very few people who formed my core support group and losing him devastated me. (I have yet to find the courage to write about him. For now, I just let waves of loss drown me when it comes.)
One of the many things he made me realize is that I will never go back to who I was before I was diagnosed. Cancer, he said, has changed me at my most fundamental level.
The phrase “new normal” is thrown around in online cancer communities I frequent. And I think, yes, this is apt. My body, my mind, and my emotions three years ago have all changed.
I look at all the people around me. And while I love them and appreciate their parts in my life, somehow, in some way, there I stand at the fringes.
If I tell them anything related to cancer, they will listen, they will let me talk, they will let me cry. But they will never understand. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Them not understanding is something I am thankful for—it means they never had cancer.
But it doesn’t mean I’m content with not having someone understand. I miss my cancer survivor friend dearly. I miss the ease in our conversations, of not needing to explain, of having someone tell you that it’s okay, it’s normal what you are feeling, you are not alone.
I wonder how you cope with that kind of loneliness.
Long-term Side Effects
I quit my office-based job more than a year ago. I needed to focus on my radiation treatment and juggling management tasks on top of hospital visits became impossible.
(If this feels like a staccato of updates, that’s because it is. I have a lot of catching up to do in this blog.)
(Also, you should listen to my poetry teacher’s music. This is the first one I heard and I was hooked.)
After getting my doctor’s clearance last July, I went back to the career path that I began fresh out of college six years ago. This time, I hope I’m not walking into it blind.
So far, my clients like my work and there’s nothing a freelance writer would love than to hear their work appreciated (aside from getting paid, of course).
My body, however, is still prone to fatigue. My stamina has improved but it’s still not in top shape. For instance, I find it difficult to continue walking after three hours of being in the mall. Whenever the fatigue attacks, I have no choice but to sleep it off for the entire day.
I see my counselor a few times a year. My oncologist prescribed anti-anxiety medications in the event that I feel another panic attack coming.
It is for these reasons that a home-based job is the wisest course of action to take. I don’t need to travel everyday and I can sleep whenever I need. Or curl up into a ball when the anxiety begins.
What Is Normal?
I’m still trying to figure out how to work my way around my limitations. There are times that I push too far; there are times that I underestimate myself.
This time, however, I have some semblance of control back in my life.
So here’s to dreaming again. To planning what will happen five years from now. To falling in love. To once again picturing myself watching the Northern Lights.
Here’s to living, dear reader. And may we live it fully.
* Featured image: Artwork by Daniel Taylor