Dealing with cancer as a fiercely independent introvert (Part 2)

I wrote this post about being an introvert with cancer over a year ago and realized that I never gave you a part 2. Maybe because I knew that I couldn’t fully write about my independent spirit until this week.

My parents will tell you that I was born independent. Even as a baby I didn’t want people to help me with things. I wanted to figure them out on my own. My mom tells a story about me playing with a toy that required finding the correct hole for different shaped blocks. Circle to circle. Square to square. She apparently tried to help me figure it out and I would turn my head and pretend that I wasn’t interested. But the moment I was left alone I was trying it on my own. (I hope my mom and dad knew they were in trouble at that point. ūüôā )

I operate this way in most areas of my life and cancer is no different. It is hard for me to let ask for helppeople help me. Often times it is even hard for me to know what I need. I am stubborn. I wont let cancer win. I wont let it take my life from me. But whether I want it to or not it has changed me. Some ways for the better: My faith has been fortified in the fire. I am more able to live in the moment and¬†enjoy life. I don’t¬†feel the need to control as much as I used to.¬†I now have absolute¬†confidence I can overcome everything. Some ways for the worse: I am afraid every bruise/pain in my body is the cancer coming back. My mind is still foggy from the chemo/Tamoxifen. It can be harder to relate to people.

I heard from many cancer patients that, often, the hardest season is after you have¬†finished treatment. I am finding that to be true for me. During treatment my job is defined. I need to show up, tolerate the chemo/radiation and then let the side effects roll. It’s not pleasant but you don’t have to think too hard. After the heavy treatment is over I no longer have the security of doctors and nurses looking after me or daily/weekly check ups. I am left to figure out my “new normal” in life with no guide book. People I encounter ask me “Aren’t you glad the treatment is done?” or “Doesn’t it feel good to have cancer behind you?” without realizing that it will never be fully behind me and I am now in a more difficult phase than I was a year ago. You see…everyone thinks I’m moving on and moving forward but I’m still catching my breath and figuring out what “moving forward” even means. I am still taking medicine (maybe for the next 5 years) that affects my sleeping, attention, cognitive function and gives me wicked hot flashes. I am operating in my margins while trying to figure out what normal is.

I have been profoundly changed this year and it is difficult to just reintegrate back into life. I was a square block in a square hole…now I am a round block trying to fit back into a square hole. It doesn’t work. And after several months of trying to force myself back into the same role…becoming more exhausted and stressed out. I admitted that I need help figuring out where I fit and it was freeing to finally say that I can’t do it on my own. I need help and that’s OK.