What The Last Weekend of Summer Teaches Us About Moving Beyond Cancer
It's the Friday before the unofficial last weekend of summer, which of course means it's Labor Day Weekend. Technically, the last day of summer is September 20th, but no one cares about that. This weekend draws a line in the sand. For the next three days, we continue to exist within the vast openness of summer days filled with sunshine and possibility. As of Tuesday morning, the beach chairs and umbrellas are stored away. It's not about technicalities, it's about knowing when to get on with the next phase of your life.
And get on we will because we've done this before. If you've graduated from the third grade, you're an old hand at it. We might complain about busier schedules, earlier wake up calls, and first day of school jitters, but we know we can handle it. Been there, done that.
When it comes to change or transitions we haven't experienced before, we tend to shy away (actually, we often run screaming in the other direction.) Our fear of the unknown is well known and deep-seated. It is the fear that gripped us when we were told, "You have cancer." Without warning from the calendar, or even our own bodies, we are suddenly plucked from our world and thrown into cancer's. All of the medical terminology, procedures and realities of our new existence are stunningly unrecognizable. There's no "been there, done that" to rely upon. We have to learn anew, sometimes minute by minute, what we are capable of handling.
At some point, if we are very lucky, it starts to get a bit easier. Not necessarily because we are "cured," but because we are healing. Like it or not, we've gotten on with the next phase of our lives. We are survivors. We've taken advantage of support groups, exercise classes, counseling, yoga, Pilates, meditation, guided imagery or whatever presented itself when we needed it. Nothing makes the stark reality of having cancer better. Cancer will always be a despicable blight. But we have managed to adapt to its reality so we can survive, despite our fear, and that's made all the difference.
Next week, with my children safely in school, I will travel once again to the Breast Center for my yearly mammogram. From the first mammogram of my life to the life-changing mammogram of September 2008, I never gave them much thought. They were inconvenient, uncomfortable obligations and I attended to them dutifully, but without concern. Now, I walk in hand-in-hand with my fear of the unknown and the inevitable question, "What if?"
I live in New Jersey and have been "down the shore," as we say here, many times. I love seeing the Atlantic Ocean, but I don't want to go in it. There's something about blindly putting my feet down on whatever might be lurking under the water that unnerves me. I'm never going to stop being afraid of the unknown. I'm just going to have to keep telling myself that I've handled it before, and I'm still here. For now, that's all I can do.
Have a wonderful weekend! Whatever we're up to, let's make sure to celebrate our tenacious ability to face our fears and get on with the next phase of our lives. Join the discussion and let me know how you've managed your fear of the unknown.
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