Today marks six weeks since I left my sixth, and final, round of treatment. One week ago today, exactly five weeks after I left the hospital, I had my follow up scan and found out I was officially in remission. To say that I was happy is a complete understatement; happy, relieved, excited… these words fail to capture the bubbling brew of emotions that arise when you find out you’ve officially been giving a second chance at life. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry, I wanted to whoop for joy.
To say life goes on doesn’t quite get it. Life, thankfully, does go on, but life is irrevocably different. It is for me, anyway, and for me, this is mostly – hopefully – a good thing. That’s how it feels for me now.
Remission is rebirth.
This is how it feels for me at this moment. Because the truth is, my life before diagnosis was not my own. It happened gradually, but over time I slowly gave up my power in the service of obligations – work, apartment, and trying to stay on top of life. I struggled to keep up, and I failed.
But the worst part was there was little joy in my life. Yoga – my longtime refuge – became a chore. It often took over half an hour just to get to my studio, and after an hour long class and post-sweatfest shower and return trip, the whole ordeal took up about 3 hours of my day. Yoga – and utilizing my pricey monthly membership – became another onerous obligation.
While I loved my students, my job became something I only occasionally enjoyed, and the commute became an additional drain. I rarely had the energy to trek downtown to meet my friends. I never went out dancing. I rarely treated myself to dinner out. I only occasionally baked – and I love baking.
I was miserable in my dismal apartment. My roommate and I tried to make it homey – I did succeed in creating a beautiful haven of my room and we had both the kitchen and living room painted – but at a certain point we gave up on the rest of it. There was nothing we could do about the neighborhood nor the management company. My room became my refuge but it also became my prison.
Stress mounted as did my anxiety levels. I was unhappy and I felt helpless and stuck. Insomnia crept into my bed and wriggled its way under the covers.
Sleep itself became an elusive dream.
A fog settled over my life. I tried to push through. I put on a brave face and kept going. I was healthy. I told myself I could keep up. But I couldn’t. Exhaustion hit. I burned out. I put my foot down, but not soon enough and not hard enough.
Life became all about surviving, not thriving. Illness had set in.
But once I received the devastating diagnosis, I woke up. My life became my own again: it was MY life on the line and I was going to do everything in my power to save it. My life and mine alone. I knew I would make it, but I was going to have to put up the biggest fight of my life and save myself.
I took action. I researched nutrition. I connected with the best doctors, worked with a nutritionist, and tried all sorts of energy healing as recommended by various acquaintances. I ordered supplements, took magic elixirs, and meditated.
And I dug deep. I took stock of what was not aligned in my life. I quit the job that no longer brought me joy. I examined my emotional state, my relationship with anxiety, and forced myself to go down the often terrifying path of psychological and emotional healing.
After I left my oncologist’s office last Tuesday, good news in tow and scan results as proof, I did strike a pose and channel my inner Beyoncé. Because I am a Cancer survivor. But I am not just a survivor: I am a THRIVER. I feel better and stronger than ever, because through the darkness, I found my light. I found me.
So now, I intend to celebrate two birthdays: September 5th, my day of birth, and September 27th, my day of rebirth. Now, I really do get a birthday month!