Sharing my story hasn’t come easy for me, journaling about it is easy but sharing it, not so much. It’s personal, it’s painful and it’s been life changing.
I seldom watch television, but I started watching Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. while home recovering via Netflix. I’m a huge Marvel fan and of course, Agent Coulson as well. Episode 6 radiated with me personally with a conversation between Agent May and Agent Coulson. It went something like this…
Agent May, “Experience like that takes a while to sink in.”
Agent Coulson, “This piece of paper is telling me that everything is fine, but I don’t feel fine. I feel different.”
Agent May, “Take off your shirt.”
“What?” He questions her.
“Your shirt, unbutton it.”
She points at his scar and says, “Whether it was 8 seconds for 40 seconds, you died. There’s no way you can go through trauma like that and not be changed. The point of these things is to remind us there is no going back, only moving forward. You feel different because you are different.”
I struggle with sharing my story because I feel like Agent Coulson; I feel different. I have a hard time understanding exactly what feels different. I get what Agent May is saying about not being able to go back. Once I had surgery, there was no going back physically and that affects me mentally. The only choice has been to keep moving forward. The uncertainty of the outcome weighs heavily on me at times. I don’t think that once you get a cancer diagnosis that you ever feel certain about anything ever again.
I also struggle because I know that everyone loves a happy ending, and I want my story to be a happy ending. Of course, that’s what we all want. We grow up reading fairy tales and believing that ‘everyone lives happily ever after.’ The reality is that there is no guarantee that you’ll get one. Yet, we press on in spite of the fact that we all know deep down that sometimes, there isn’t a happy ending to every story. In the back of my mind, it haunts me. I push it aside, and tell myself to live in the moment and not to worry about tomorrow. I prefer to think hopeful thoughts.
I still dream of being a pilot; just for fun, not a job. I may never get there, but the path ahead isn’t clear and I don’t know what it holds. I’m not ready to give up just yet. I have a ways to go and this new journey is just beginning.
I stare at myself in the mirror after showering, and I look at my scar. There are stitches from my sternum to under my arm at the edge of my ribs where they curve to go to my back. I touch them and feel the roughness under my fingertips. It doesn’t disgust me like I thought it would. I’m already thin and with the expander under my muscle, I look strong and leaner than I did before surgery. There is a small mound there and I still have cleavage. I can’t feel anything on my chest as it’s become numb because of severed nerves that no longer link.
My fingertips feel the skin but the skin on my chest feels nothing. How odd it is when there used to be so much feeling there to have none now. I marvel at the roundness of it and how obnoxiously high it sits on my chest right now. I wonder if this is what it looked like when I was a teenager just starting puberty. I can actually flex my pec muscle and see it move. How fascinating that is to me at the moment. It may gross some people out, but I’m looking at it in the mirror and laughing because I can now do the ‘pec pop of love’ as The Rock would say. I laugh again, and think I should never do that as a party trick. It might scare people.
I’ve made friends with my scar. What I know is that I will be forever changed by this, physically and mentally. I wonder if that was supposed to be the point. I don’t know specifically how it has changed me or how it will continue to do so, maybe that’s ultimately why I’m afraid of sharing my story. I know that by going through all of this that there is no way for it not to affect me or anyone else that’s gone through it. I think I’m afraid of the change on one hand and on the other, excited to see what kind of changes it does have on me. I feel more determined and more deliberate with my intentions in every aspect of my life now. It’s like every day has more purpose in it than it did before cancer.
I was really angry for what seemed like a long time. I was so angry that even my journaling of it frightens me when I look back over it. I won’t share those days or thoughts because I’m ashamed of how angry I was in those moments. I think I wrote out of desperation and as to avoid anyone actually hearing me say any of those things out loud. They were buried deeply, and a cancer diagnosis doesn’t really give you anyone specifically to lash out at, so I poured out my anger on paper at God. Not because I thought I didn’t deserve this, but because I didn’t like his timing very much. I also thought he meant to take flying away from me. My husband hasn’t been as excited about me flying as I’ve been, and I felt like this was God’s way of siding with him.
I’m not angry anymore, and I’m not sure God really cares about whether I fly planes or not. The timing may stink but this cancer diagnosis came to me to bare and persevere through it, I shall. It is what it is, and there is nothing I can do now to change it. There’s a time to deal with anger, and then there’s a time to move past it. Even though emotionally I still struggle some days, I’m not stuck in those feelings any longer. I feel it and move on. I don’t let them control me. I don’t ignore what I feel. I tend to journal about it and pour it out on paper as my way of dealing with the emotions.
I still long to live an adventurous life, perhaps now more than ever. I still have dreams, but they are a little different than they were before cancer. I don’t plan on giving them up, for what is life without them? A dull, boring existence, and I’ve never been one to settle for boring.