A while back Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer suggested that those of us blogging about our cancer experiences should write about our “other life”. The idea was that we are much more than our cancer diagnosis and that perhaps it would be good if we wrote about that a bit. Accidental Amazon wrote about her “other life”. (Others have since shared their non-cancer stories – see Nancy’s Point for her “My Other Life” post).
I thought it was a great idea as I would love to learn more about the women behind the blogs I am reading. That was almost a month ago. I thought surely by now I would have written “My Other Life” post. But, I haven’t known where to start. I keep getting stuck on how cancer seems to have put the brakes on so much of my other life. Even though there is a lot more to my life than what I have been through during the past couple of years, it is difficult for me to write on this topic. I have finally figured out why. It is because cancer has put this indelible mark on everything. Even as a return to so many things that I used to do before cancer, but, had to stop because of either treatment or simply the fatigue that I now face post treatment, I experience these things differently now. That is the stamp of cancer.
A couple of weekends ago I rode a bike 13 miles at a pretty decent pace, half of that ride was against the wind. It was a real struggle, but, I did it and it felt good. Prior to the bike ride, I walked a brisk two miles. So 15 miles combined. It felt good to walk and to ride. But, it was tough and exhausting. I was quite spent at the end of it. Still, very glad I was able to do it.
I have always been a glass if half full kind of person. But, cancer sometimes makes that difficult. Still, there are two ways I could look at that difficult bike ride. I could be upset that it was so hard for me, angry that my lymphedema prone arm made it pretty challenging, a bit depressed to discover that things that were once simple are still pretty difficult. Or, I could look at it the way I do (most of the time, anyway) and that is that I am lucky that I can get on a bike, lucky that I am breathing and able to make yet another grab to reclaim yet another piece of my life as it was before. Still, it is just not the same and that is sometimes hard.
But, I am returning to my other life as best I can. I am definitely a different version of my former self. A lot of things have changed. But, I am accepting that, if ever so gradually. On a side note, there has been some blogging on the topic of “new normal” . . . a term I can not stand. I first heard the “new normal” term in a support group. I wanted to scream. The idea that I had to accept or find my “new normal” in the wake of cancer to me was simply adding insult to injury. It was too much. I still refuse to embrace that term. I refuse to give into the idea of a new normal - which to me simply means that I don’t get my other life back . . . not completely anyway. I realize I probably won’t get back to what I felt like before. But, I refuse to give up on the idea of returning to my old life, at least not yet.
So . . . you already know something about me – in my other life – and that is that I am stubborn. Very stubborn. I would like to think that this stubbornness has helped me in my cancer ordeal.
Hmm . . . I have not made much progress on the intended topic for this blog post
Okay, here goes . . .
In my other life I am a teacher and a writer, I am a little bit of an activist of sorts and a little bit of a musician. I love music. I play stand up bass, a little piano and I sing. My singing voice changed post cancer (I think it might be from the radiation, not sure). I love to cook, I love movies, I love the outdoors, I love the ocean. (I recently relocated to be near the beach, it was a good move).
Here is my singing voice before radiation (this is not typical of what I sing . . . I recorded these two songs for my Mom a few years back at her request. She no longer cares for “Danny Boy”, I understand why):
I have written in the past about the hijacking effect of cancer. It becomes an identity, cancer does. Which, I suppose, is the whole point of writing about “my other life” . . . to do something other than write about cancer and all that it can visit upon a person. During treatment, having a gig with my band meant so much to me. I had to sit out of a lot of playing opportunities due to treatment and fatigue. Now I am working on getting back into music again.
After music, the outdoors, the ocean, traveling (did I mention that I LOVE to travel?) I am also very passionate about food. I was a vegetarian for years . . . ironically enough, for health reasons. My Aunt Ann died of breast cancer in 1994. I had already become a vegetarian earlier that year because I thought it might reduce my risk of getting breast cancer. I know now that I may not have done myself any favors since back then there were not many organic options for vegetables and fruits . . . so I may have simply increased my intake of pesticides (which are now known to contribute to cancer). Who knows.
Since breast cancer, my other life, has included a lot of new recipes. I have always loved to cook. But, since cancer I have focused on creating new recipes to include specific foods. For example, I try to eat wild, organic, blueberries on a daily basis. I also try to eat five different colors of vegetables and fruits each day . . . not always an easy feat. It is something I came up with a little while back. The attempt to include five colors each day has caused me to create a number of new recipes. Diet has become a significant part of how I cope with having had cancer. It is one of the few things that I can control. I eat organic fruits and vegetables and try not to eat processed foods. Who knows, I might have a cook book in me . . . or at least a few worthy recipes to share.
So that is a little bit about me, my other life . . . the life I am trying to pick back up
- Many advanced breast cancer patients do not receive recommended treatment (medicalxpress.com)
- 3 hrs in the sun daily can help slash breast cancer by 50 pc (news.bioscholar.com)