How does one move on from a major illness?
I’ve thought about this starting early in the diagnosis: “I’ve got cancer, so now what?”
At the beginning, life was dedicated to dealing with the illness, the “here and now” immediate needs, and maybe looking ahead a little bit to the next surgery, to the recovery, to the months after. But what about next year, five years from now, ten years, and beyond that? Will this experience shape my beliefs? My temperament? My sense of humor, confidence? Will it make me a better person? Will it make me bitter, cynical, afraid of doing activities I used to love? What lessons *should* I learn here, and what *will* I take away from being ill? Rest assured, this process will unfold over time, as the event moves further into my past.
Recently, I feel like there has been a time warp and I’ve suddenly aged a few years! Perception says I no longer look ‘young for my age’ (39), but instead like a 40-year old! To be fair, I’m on a natural path to aging, yet I was not this old a year ago! The creases on my forehead and under my eyes, silver hairs, dark circles under my eyes, enlarged pores, etc, reveal the hard road traveled this past year. Age has become poignant following major illness.
Just to be clear, age has *never* been a factor for judgement. I don’t place undue value on youth. I value life experience and wisdom, and value the age qualities that come along, like wrinkles and creases, grey hairs and what the body does in time, in its own way. Look, like everybody else I earned my knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t give it up to go back to an earlier time, therefore, I accept the physical age my skin has taken on with pride. After all, it is only skin. With the recent aging caused by heavy chemical, radiation and surgical treatments for cancer, I am now coping with the reality of aging. I will come to accept my new features as they fit into my life naturally and beautifully.
Now and then I wonder how the past year’s illness will affect me psychologically. For example, when I get back to my old favorite activities, will I feel awkward, rusty or insecure?
I was never an “aggressive” athlete. I took more chances than the average person, but less than the average athlete. Bicycling and inline skating are hobbies I did with great zeal; biking alongside cars, anywhere and everywhere, any weather, any time. Running, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, etc; again I don’t have an especially risk-taking personality, still, given the inherent risks in each sport, I felt in-control. Will my mind now tell me, “I’m done with this, it’s time to retire!” Is this good-bye to big rocks and steep hills on the mountain biking trail, which at one time I devoured?
I do not need to worry about letting my youthful vigor slip away because if it does, it is because I’m ready to move on to something else which will have a new place in my aged, wised-up self! I imagine that now I’ll have a whole new respect for mortality and bodily health after spending so many hours, days and dollars fighting to keep my life and quality of life. Or, maybe not – perhaps I’ll take up surfing with sharks. Ha!