Midlife necessities

Midlife necessities
Midlife necessities

Monday, November 17, 2014

Identity Crisis

Last week I started feeling restless. Maybe because I finished the first four cycles of my chemo, or because I felt pretty good. Maybe I'm just getting comfortable with my routine of chemo, recovery, flushing weird body tubes, stomach shots, and being nearly bald. The reality of being in treatment hit again today when I discovered that energy level is a real thing. My little three hour outing tired me out! To Kaiser for my dressing change and to pick up two bags of flushing supplies, then to the 91 Express Lanes office, and finally to Stater's for a few groceries. Fast walking from my car to Oncology made me breathe so heavily that the receptionist made a comment to me. And walking to the car with my two large pharmacy bags completed the strenuous exercise I would do today (sorry dogs, no walk). Yesterday we braved Ontario Mills for about an hour and it was more than enough. I wore my mask on my doctor's orders ("Avoid crowds but if you can't, wear a mask"). Afterward my nap was longer than my outing! I guess for awhile my restless brain will have to accept my tired body.

Time (obviously) marches on. It's already been two and a half months since my surgery (almost fully healed) and I still have five or so months of treatments left. I can't help wondering what's next. At the moment I'm so excited for my entire family to be together for Thanksgiving! Family get-togethers are what I live for, and this will be one of the most special ones ever! There will be lots of firsts in one weekend. I'll be starting my new chemo drugs on the 24th, and traveling on the 26th. My nurse said that will be my "low" day, but since I'm a car passenger, I'm not too concerned. In fact, I'm confident that I will feel fantastic the entire trip and able to enjoy every last moment!

Along with happy new memories to make, there are old memories to deal with. Being somewhere you didn't expect to be in midlife is both scary and exhilarating. Figuring out who I am now and what I want from the next phase of my life will help me determine where I'm going. My current identity consists of being a divorced, unemployed chemo patient diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. However, as my loved ones are good at reminding me, being a chemo patient is temporary. I may have to take chemo drugs for the next five to ten years, but I will no longer be a chemo patient with a bald head and a tube in my chest! Right now, living in the present moment, I must focus on being a (temporary!) chemo patient, meaning that I must put all my energy toward healing and staying healthy. And once I'm finished with my treatment, I believe the rest will fall into place. I'll be able to pursue job opportunities and will feel confident to start something new. I'll move forward with plans for the future because I'll be spending this "down time" cleaning up my past (note to self: do not look at family photo albums or shred 30 years of tax documents while listening to The Fray). My life may not be proceeding according to my plan or at the pace I'd like it to, but at least it's proceeding! And I know that God has good things in the works for me.

The only thing that won't change is the fact that I had breast cancer. But "had" will be the operative word, and I will not let it be my identity.

Patience! "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12

Faith! "'For I know the plans I have for you', declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

Identity! "For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26

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