Monday, April 16, 2012

Great Expectations

One month. That's how long I've been home.

Turns out the process of returning home -- returning to "normal" -- isn't so easy.

A big part of me thought I'd come home and things would be simple. I'd be done with the chemo. No more full days of therapy. I'd be home with The Hubby, sleeping in my own bed. Being home would be a breeze.

Oh, the power of expectations.

Being home is definitely not a breeze.

Part of me thought I'd get a clean scan, come home, and Cancer would just kind of fade into the background.

Honestly, over the last couple weeks, I haven't even wanted to write about cancer. Actually, I didn't even want to think about cancer. But a clean scan doesn't mean the cancer actually goes away, certainly not mentally and oftentimes, not physically.

Not a day, no, an hour, goes by where I don't think about cancer. When I prepare my meals, when I try and convince my too lazy self to work out, when I think about my future, when I feel a cold coming on, when I'm having a completely unrelated conversation with a friend - Cancer is there for all of it.

Not a day goes by where I don't feel my neck, just to make sure I don't have any swollen lymph nodes.

I spent my first month home trying to forget about the cancer and just live my life. I celebrated my return with friends, watched a lot of bad daytime television, pretty much did what I could to get cancer to fade away. I still took my supplements, stuck to a vegan diet, got regular Vitamin C IV treatments and massages.

It's not that I got home and fell off the "health" wagon, but I certainly didn't embrace it.

I was pissed that I had to work out (so some days, I didn't). I was pissed that I had to juice in the morning (so I slacked on that too). I was pissed that Momma Bear would tell me she was having a tough time with the new lifestyle, but the reality is, she didn't have to live it (so I stopped returning her calls).

Generally, I was just pissed. I felt like my life was no longer my choice.

So I spent the last month on a roller coaster of emotions. I celebrated the results of my scan. I mourned the loss of my old life, the freedom of a worry free existence. I made poor decisions, which some days I could justify away and other days resulted in me wallowing in my own guilt of not being strong enough to make all the right choices. And some days, I was a bitch for no reason at all.

I put in a lot of effort trying to live in denial of what I was going through. But cancer would inevitably sneak its way back into my thoughts, jerking me out of my blissful pause.

Basically, I got home and put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to be perfect. I was going to make all the right decisions. Not only would I live a healthier life, but I was going to figure out how my experience would make me a better -- no, the best -- person!

But now, not only did I have to make all of these lifestyle changes, I also had all of these unreal expectations to "figure it out."

Life is short. Live life to the fullest. Carpe Fucking Diem. Every cliche you can think of added pressure to my every day.

When I didn't come up with answers, I felt like a failure.

Even on days when I made all the right decisions (I juiced, exercised, took supplements, got 8 hours of sleep, ate a strictly raw/vegan diet), I still didn't have answers to the bigger questions: What should I do with my life? How has this experience changed me? What am I doing to pay it forward? What are my passions?

So even on my best days, I still felt inadequate. I still felt like a failure.

You hear about people who go through a traumatic experience or get a glimpse of death and they are immediately changed. Just like that. Their past no longer matters because they have now seen the light! They now realize the fickleness of life and wouldn't dare waste a moment of it! So they just move forward and start making all the right choices. These people make change seem so easy. These people would be extremely disappointed in my daytime television habit. Why watch TV when you could be out bettering yourself and those around you?? (I have since come to the conclusion that these people are either a) fictional people in romantic comedies or b) liars).

Because of these crazy expectations, I spent the last month trying to look forward and had a hard time not looking back. Actually, I felt like I was being dragged forward, kicking and screaming, as I watched my past life slip further and further away.


My life had changed and I didn't have time to decide if I was ready for, or even wanted, that change. And that loss of control was infuriating.

Until it wasn't.

I'd like to say that I had some huge life altering realization, that I became one of those people. But honestly, I was just sick of wallowing and feeling bad over ridiculous things like missing BBQ and cheap beer.

I also realized that being pissed about what I was going through wasn't making my life any better. Actually, it was making me miserable (and although he probably wouldn't admit it, The Hubby too).

I had a clean scan, my life was supposed to be better, not worse.

I finally got to a point where I decided to make the right decisions, not because I'm in remission from cancer and have to, but because I want to live a better, fuller, healthier life (feel free to roll your eyes at my over-the-top, cliched optimism -- maybe I am becoming one of those people).

I'd like to think that I would have ultimately come to the same conclusions about my life whether I got cancer or not, simply because it's the smart way to live. We all should be more aware of what we put in our bodies, try to stay in shape, and appreciate what we have in our lives.

I'd like to think I'm smart enough that I would have gotten there on my own.

But if nothing else, I will give cancer the credit for getting me there faster, even if I did start out kicking and screaming. As for the other big questions, I just have to be more patient with myself.

For now, let’s stick to taking one giant life-altering leap at a time.


  1. be easy on you, I wish I lived closer so I could cook all your meals for you, and exercise with you!

  2. My Dear Wonderful Dana, I am feeling exactly the same way. We accomplished what no one thought we could do. We should feel really proud and satisfied that YOU made the decision to think outside of the box, put yourself and your body first and go the kinder, gentler route and still eliminated the tumors! So why do I feel so tired and depressed, like I'm so behind the eight ball and letting people down? I came home to all the things I've procrastinated, a leaky roof, bills out the yahoo, 12 trees dead that need to come out, computer dying, data a mess, the pressure to write a business plan ASAP to start paying off credit cards... I know that I feel better starting the day with meditation, yoga and green juice but have so much catch up to do that I find myself putting everything else first and causing my own anxiety that I'm not accomplishing more. The new diet takes planning and thought and motivation; so does lifestyle change. It's challenging for me and I didn't have cancer.
    We have been through a lot both physically and emotionally and healing and growth takes time. Take one day at a time, listen to your body, your heart and your soul and you will figure things out in exactly the right time. Please don't let your ego mind or anyone else cause you pain by seeing failure instead of the great successes you are achieving. Most importantly, nurture your body and mind and choose not to give in to the negative thoughts.

    This weekend I went to the Take Back Your Life Conference which was exactly the boost that I needed and I so wish that you were here to go with me. The speakers were inspirational and reinforced the importance of everything you did in Arizona. This is why community is so important. We are social and spiritual beings in a material world. We become what we eat, read, hear and think and we need to surround ourselves with love and optimism. We were not brought into this world to muddle through alone. Take the time that you need to read, write, breathe and just be and you will find light and inspiration at the end of this dark tunnel. They say that our children are our spiritual guides and you and your siblings have certainly been mine and I am truly grateful for that. Love, Mom

  3. Dana,
    I can relate to so so many of the the things you wrote and I have never had cancer (if you know what I mean)Time will never heal the pain but at times it certainly helps. Try and give it some time. XOXO Kathy Marantette