Posted by: julia
on Feb 03, 2015
Birthday blogging! It has become a tradition (though like everything else blog-related, I’m a week or two behind on it this year). I blog on my birthday not because my birthdays themselves are necessarily all that remarkable or awe-inspiring, but because this regular anniversary provides me with a built-in opportunity for reflection. And my birthday is a reflection “two-fer”, because for me, birthdays are always double-entendre: it’s not only the day I was born, it’s also the day I was told I might die (to be all overly dramatic about it...what I mean is that it’s also the day I got my cancer diagnosis in the doctor’s office). So every year on my birthday, I get to reflect both about the general place I find myself in in my life that year, and about the continually unfolding, deepening lessons I’ve learned from my trajectory through the identity of cancer survivor. I’ve already done some reflecting on the general place I find myself in this year in the last couple of blog entries, so this one is a reflection on the cancer journey.
And what a long, strange journey it’s been. January 22nd, 2015 marked my 23rd anniversary of diagnosis with Stage II Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was 23 when I was diagnosed, so this year also marks a strange kind of halfway point—as of this writing, I’ve now been a cancer survivor longer than I haven’t been. This cancer survivor piece of me is thoroughly integrated now, and it’s harder and harder for me to remember being any other way. (Not that I particularly want or need to, except as a personal archeology issue.) Though the active part of the cancer experience (diagnosis and treatment) was “only” about 4 months of my now 46 years on the planet, the impact that the cancer experience has had on me over the years has been significant. It rearranged my priorities, gave me a new identity, taught me a bunch of lessons, and, as I’m continually learning to appreciate, had a huge impact on my psychological processes. Even 23 years later, I’m still finding new insights about the ways in which that diagnosis and treatment time affected my personality and the way I now live my life. Some of those ways are useful to me, and I want to keep them; some are not useful any more (though they might have been at some point), and I want to let go of them.
So in the spirit of this anniversarial opportunity for reflection, here are a few things I’ve recently been musing on when I think about the ways in which the cancer experience impacted my psychological processes. These are things that I want to try to heal or let go of (saying them out loud and trying to accept them as real is the first step, right?)