Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Stories We Tell

"The stories we tell ourselves affect how we live our lives."

That's the oncologist words above, challenging me to examine the story I tell myself about my cancer journey and my way forward from here. He's said it because I mentioned again about having so many twists and turns along the way and that perhaps that's compounding the awful side effects of the estrogen blocker medication I'm on.

In the echo of his words I feel lost, unable to grasp what it looks like to be finished with appointments and to move forward. I don't want it to be over either but I don't know why.

It takes a night's sleep to grasp that he was telling me: "You are cancer free, go live your life, don't let yourself be defined by this." A faint glimmer of hope stirs in me at the phrase 'cancer free' and I feel guilty that I have no energy or desire to do a happy dance even though I recognize it is good, good news. There is a part of me that wants to march back into his office and say defiantly, "I will never forget" and I think to myself what an ungrateful wretch I am.

I feel like I am being yanked in a game of tug of war with one arm glued to the rope in front of me and one arm reaching for the rope behind that is just out of my reach. I'm crying as I move forward and it's the mastectomy side's arm being pulled forward. Damn, it hurts.

It takes me a week to see that the oncologist was never asking me to forget what happened. My discomfort with moving forward comes from believing I have to either move forward or cling to the past. I breathe a sigh of relief when I realize that I can both move forward and honour the past. The tension between the two is much like the pull of my mastectomy scar every time I stretch out my arm.

While I don't want to be defined solely by this part of my journey I will never be the person I was before it ever again.

And that will always be my story.


Robin said...

I have read that many (most?) people struggle with the transition from the all-encompassing nature of cancer treatment to its being over, completely over. I love what your doctor said; it's so true. We could tell our stories in any number of ways, and the slants we choose do affect the rest of our lives.

Your story sure looks to me like one of courage, resiliency, hope, and Future.

Daisy said...

"I don't want it to be over either but I don't know why."

That's very interesting. I've never heard anyone say that but it makes sense. The cancer journey was your focus for quite some time; you steeled yourself to face what had to be done and had to set other things aside.

Now that focus is not there and it takes time to re-ignite the interests that you had to lay aside.

Does that make any sense or am I full of it?

Hope said...

Yes. For so long there was always another thing ahead of me and now it feels a bit like I'm floundering. Also I thought that moving forward meant leaving behind all that has happened and I knew I wasn't done processing it. So as long as there was something ahead of me I still had time to process. It was actually in the writing that I was able to sort it out and make sense of it.

Beth said...

Beautiful. You and your story.

annie said...

I think it is a little like what I have had to learn to do, Hope. We move forward but the trauma of our pasts has forever changed the landscape of our lives and we need at times, to remember and mourn our losses (and to thank God for the graces he sent to help us through our tough times). Not all the time and hopefully not in ways that cripple us from moving forward, but in ways that honor our losses.

This is all just my opinion, of course.

Heidi Renee said...

that's why I'm dancing for you!

"we will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it" is what comes to my mind as I read your words. You have done this with every other tragedy or experience in your life so far, I have total faith (and HOPE) that you will redeem this in a most beautiful way.

I love you!

Jim said...

Hope, if you will forgive me, I am convinced by my own journey that it is not so much about who we are in this, from beginning to end, but who we are in Him that defines us. You have given great witness to a picture yet being painted, a strong connection with that One who is going through this with you. If your words sometimes reflect questions and anger, they are just part of taking the next step with Him in honesty. WE on the sidelines are just here for support and hopefully a bit of encouragement.....