If you’ve never taken a piece of clay and thrown it onto a pottery wheel to create a masterpiece, I encourage you to do so! In my time I have done that very thing and I can think of a time in particular where I just couldn’t get it right and I kept starting over and over. Cancer turns you into clay again, being thrown, then sitting there, then spinning, and then fine tuning.
Diagnosis is the being thrown part. You feel like your whole world gets turned upside down, dumped, and then shook because that’s exactly what happens. You learn to speak a new language, the medical language. You then begin to dive into your new world (hence the throwing). Everything feels chaotic like you won’t catch your breath.
Then comes the sitting part. It’s after you hear the words, once you’ve developed the game plan with the oncologist, and treatments begin. You are in the routine of it. Someone tells you where to show up and when to show up. You do what they tell you to do. Not much thought has to really go into this stage because by this point you’ve got the language down, you are on top of your stats, and you know the questions you want to ask. You are waiting for the hell to be over, reminding yourself to keep going. If you’ve never been through chemo it is my definition of hell on earth. While doable it’s still not pleasant.
After treatment is the spinning part. It’s the trying to find what the new normal looks like. Getting some similarity of your old life back coupled with the new realm that you now exist in. If I ever thought chemo was hard I don’t think I ever knew what was coming next. I think this phase will be my hardest. I’m going to spend some time exploring this phase in this piece.
For the survivor everything has changed and yet nothing has changed. The way I look at life now has forever been changed, there is no going back. I do things differently. I have different likes. I have different philosophies. I enjoy solitude when I didn’t before. I’m more comfortable with silence yet yearn to hear laughter. I want more moments and less things. When something is important to me I become super stubborn about it. My priorities are vastly different than before. I am more social than I used to be. I have a renewed faith. I have a relationship with God. Everyday for me is a discovery into learning something new about me. One thing that never changed is I’m about as stubborn as they come and I can and will dig my heels in. Yet with all of the new I am still me. I live in the same house, drive the same car, my family has not changed. I am still a wife, mother, daughter, sister, banker, blogger, gardener, and runner. I am all of these things at once.
For those around the survivor or for me as an example. This phase has to be challenging. They are having to learn a whole new person too, along with you. While I am having fun and embracing the new me, my renewed outlook on life, I realize those around me might not be thinking the ride is as joyous as I think it is. It’s learning the right spin, the right groove. It can be messy. I am still learning this and I often need to be reminded of it. It’s also the most challenging part for me, remember I didn’t lose the stubbornness! I’m also a little less organized than I was before which is likely frustrating, it definitely is when I go to look for something in my giant mom purse!
My advice is take the time to learn from the survivor and then as a survivor take time to learn from those around you. The two will NEVER have the same perspective and guess what? That is perfectly ok! The part that is the hardest for me is that I want to change other people’s perspectives but I need to remind myself that those around me will never have the same perspective. Things didn’t change for them the same way they did for me, not even my spouse. Yes, things change for those around the survivor but not to the degree of the actual survivor. It’s finding the balance between the almost two worlds.
It can also be the learning to laugh again. The learning to dance in the rain. It’s about learning to have conversations again. It’s about embracing the new, honoring the past, and forging forward.
The fine tuning part I likely think would come once you get a handle on the spinning phase and learn it’s not about changing any person but that it’s about learning the new normal together with eyes ready for discovery. I would think that it’s when you start to harmonize, when things make more sense, and when everyone seems to be on the same page. I am anticipating this phase yet feel I’m a ways away from it. Until then, I’ll keep spinning and discovering the new norm!
Raise those Cabernet glasses and toast to the Cancer Pottery Wheel! It’s where discoveries are made, hardships come and go, and where a person is rebirthed!