Monday, September 7, 2009

Hey, remember that time I used to blog about my life as a cancer survivor?

Yeah, me too.  Good times.  Good times on the internets.  Well, following certain recent events that I will discuss a few lines down, I feel the need to b-log once more.  I am and have been struggling quite a bit lately with who I am and what's next for me.  Now, I recognize that uncertainty and doubt are pretty much the norm for recent college grads, especially these days when there are so few jobs floating around.  Unfortunately, a wrench was thrown into my works three years ago when my body decided it would be cool to go and give itself cancer.

I am, only now, beginning to feel like everything is catching up with me.  Basically, from the day I was diagnosed until I graduated on May 17, 2009, I did not stop.  I did the treatment thing; then I did the school thing; and then I did the Washington, DC thing.  The past three years are a blur.  I feel cheated of my college years, in a sense.  Sometimes I wish I hadn't been stripped of my innocence and invincible attitude.  Sometimes I wish I could have graduated and moved into some tiny apartment somewhere, barely making rent and living on PBRs and Cheerios.  But wishing never did anyone any good, nor does dwelling on what isn't.

This past week I went to Jackson, Wyoming, to climb in the Tetons with a bunch of young adult cancer survivors through an organization called First Descents.  Initially, I had been more interested in the climbing aspect of the trip than the cancer part.  I want to get more involved in climbing, and I figured this would be a good opportunity to climb in some of the most beautiful mountains in the U.S.  And, hey, I had cancer, so I was eligible for this program.  Bonus.  But I wasn't really thinking about the cancer part or what it would mean to spend five days with other young adult survivors.  I certainly didn't realize how inadequate and lost I would feel among 13 or so other people who have all had cancer and who all seemed so much more together than myself.  Some of the other people there were closer to their treatment than I am, but I was the youngest young adult there.  While I didn't feel younger in terms of maturity, I felt like the person with the least direction.

Over the years, I have gotten pretty good at deluding myself into thinking everything is okay.  I realized out in Wyoming that while I am pretty comfortable with myself, I am still not okay with this cancer thing.  This was the first time I have ever been around a bunch of people my own age who actually understand what cancer really looks like, feels like, smells like, is.  What it means to be in your 20s or 30s with cancer.  It was extremely painful for me to have it all brought home so quickly.  With my friends, I can pretend that I was never sick, that everything is okay.  But at camp, it was inescapable.  Right at the point when I was desperately trying to pretend that none of this ever happened, I found myself smack in the middle of it again.

And you know what?  I needed that so badly.  I needed to be with people who understood.  I needed to hear from someone who knows what I am going through that things will work out okay.  Just talking with them gave me hope and a little bit of peace.  The men and women I met out in Wyoming are some of the most amazing, strong people I have ever met.  And they are all just living their lives.  They have made it past diagnosis and treatment and a few are even a couple years removed from it all.  I am so grateful for their shared strength.  

Wyoming was one of the best times I have ever had, between the climbing and the spontaneous dance parties in the middle of a road and the juvenile humor and the laughter.  So much laughter.  I haven't laughed so hard and so truly in a long time.  It is amazing how just a few people can change your perceptions, even if only slightly.  I am still struggling with this whole cancer thing and how much I want to embrace it right now, but I am not as scared or uncertain.  We have all made it this far, and we will just keep on keeping on.  

"People call us renegade cause we like living crazy."

Wyoming is pretty much a photographer's dream.

Andre, aka 007

All of us together on Jenny Lake at the foot of the mountain


guinness222 said...

I can relate, as this past spring after a routine physical all of a sudden a bunch more tests were thrown at me and next thing I know I'm in a Cardio-Thorasic surgeons office and he's telling me I need a triple Bypass- like NOW! Since then I've been through Cardio rehab, had carotid artery surgery, lost 45 pounds, eat right, and exercise like the Ever Ready bunny, but I still feel something there, something gnawing at me, a giant "what if" lurking in the fog. It worries me as well, and for all the people you talk with the operative word is sympathy, at least with other Heart Patients there is a peaceful "empathy" and a connection.
I have followed your blog for several years now and admire your courage, sometimes a "wake up call" means we think differently from that moment on,...I know I do.

MuffnBun said...

Caroline, I gain strength from your blog. I too have been through so much and have pushed past it by using my words to get it out of me! Talking, sharing with those who can relate makes us feel so normal. That is what we all want to be - normal. But I love being the wild crazy me! I won't let go of that fun loving me - no one can take that away only I can put it on the shelf and only I can take it down again. I find your blog honest and interesting. I am happy you are expressing as you found out in WY that is how one heals. Take Care