Tim and I are going to a survivor/caregivers dinner next Thursday. I've never been to something like this. They have meetings, support groups, things like that, for cancer patients. I never went to one. They were held on a Wednesday, invariably on a chemo day. By the time that my chemo was inexplicably changed to Thursdays, I had a handle on everything, and did not feel the need to go to a support group, although it was very nice to talk to others who had dealt with, or were dealing with, cancer. So Tim was a little surprised when I told him that I wanted to go to this event, held in the banquet hall of a local hotel.
I've been thinking about it a lot. Life is beginning to go back to normal. Tim is working again. I will be returning to work soon. Cancer treatment has gone from a long drawn out thing with plenty of side effects to a short procedure that seems to have (knock wood) no side effects at all. I suppose that it is too early to say that I've beat it. I imagine that there will be tests to verify that the cancer is gone, that it hasn't spread, etc. In my mind, though, I feel like the battle has turned in my favor.
I plan to be part of our Relay for Life. I also think of my friends Mary (Mary, the childhood friend and Mary, the new friend who's also dealing with breast cancer), and know that the most important thing that I can do is to be a Mary to someone else who is starting down the same scary path. I've met people, though, who have taken on the identity of 'cancer survivor'. That is what they are. If you asked them to describe themselves, it would be the first thing that they say about themselves. It is a banner of triumph that they wrap themselves in, and well they should; cancer is not the easiest walk in the world. I just don't ever see it becoming the most important chapter of my life. I can't imagine that it will ever be 'the' defining thing about me. I am a wife. I am a mom. I am a sister. I am a friend. I believe in God. I am a hard worker. I am funny. I am responsible. Oh, and yes, I had cancer.
I suppose that the daily dose of tamoxifen will remind me that I had cancer. While the scars have faded remarkably, my mishapen breast will remind me of this time as well. My life will return to normal, but the new 'normal' will include reminders of this time. It is an important chapter of my life, and I firmly believe that it was a chapter that I was meant to learn from. I'm also meant to use this chapter to reach out to others. Life is about balance, though. In a few months, when you ask me about myself, I will again list the things about myself: "Well, I'm a mom, and I'm a wife. I am a good friend. I believe in God. I am a hard worker. I love to laugh, and I am responsible." As I tick off a description of myself, I may get to the part about cancer. Maybe I won't. Cancer will never become my identity. It will merely be a chapter in my life.
Unless (God forbid) it comes back.