You are lying in bed. Every bone in your body aches. You feel like a marching band is parading around in your head. You start to get mad at yourself because treatment is over, and you should be “back to normal” already. But you don’t feel normal. You don’t feel like your old self; in fact, you can’t even remember who she used to be. You feel lost, fragile and broken. You don’t know what your role in this world is anymore.
Your body has undergone some serious trauma and IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY. It’s okay not to have everything figured out. People think cancer is all about pink ribbons, being strong and “kicking cancer’s ass”, but who can possibly do that every day? Cancer sometimes places women on this pedestal and it can make you feel like you must be an inspiration for others. You must smile to show everyone how strong you are. You must put on that wig, and hide those tears because no one wants to see a sad, bald, woman. You can’t tell people how you really feel because you are not allowed be negative, you must be positive. Positive thinking only. I can’t tell you how many times people have said “Don’t give up, keep fighting!” Um… thanks Captain Obvious. I will keep fighting because the alternative is death and clearly, I don’t want to die.
One thing my journey has thought me is that it is okay not to be okay. It is okay to cry. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to feel vulnerable sometimes and say “no” to plans and obligations. It is okay to cancel on your friends or family because you aren’t feeling well. It’s okay to fall apart, and feel lost. You aren’t alone in these feelings. This is the one time in your life that you can be selfish. In fact, you need to be selfish. You need to put yourself first, your health first.
For me, it was clear that my old life wasn’t working for me. I truly feel the stress of my job, and always putting others before myself contributed heavily to my cancer. I should have taken my Stage II diagnosis as a warning sign that I need to slow down and reevaluate the influences in my life. I didn’t. As soon as my treatment was finished I went back to work. Two months later I ended up in the hospital and was given a Stage IV diagnosis. Well, you better believe I started making changes as soon as possible. I cut toxic people out of my life. I quit my stressful job where I was overworked, underpaid, and undervalued. And I found that for each thing I lost in my life, I found something new and better to replace it.
Don’t let getting lonely make you feel like you need to reconnect with toxic people. You wouldn’t drink poison just because you’re thirsty, would you? I have learned who I can depend on and who is truly there for me. I have learned that I am loved and that there is goodness in everyone. My cancer has taught me the power of positive thinking and the brain’s ability to manifest something into fruition. I have learned to be realistic about my body and its capacities. I know I will still have bad days, but I also know I will get through them. It’s important to know, that even on the best of days, it’s still okay not be to okay.