How I Learned to Feel Like Myself Again

Many things about my personality and my life have changed since I was diagnosed with cancer. I have met many of these changes with distrust and dislike.

The fatigue that I began to experience during chemo, which continues from time to time into my survivorship, is frustrating and debilitating. It brought my late nights dancing salsa and my early mornings in the lab to a halt. Before cancer, I had always been able to jump from activity to activity, homework assignment to homework assignment, and meeting to meeting with plenty of energy. But all of the sudden I needed to take breaks, establish a defined work-life balance, and make time for sleep and relaxation.

Dealing with stress felt almost impossible. It was all hard enough to deal with and plan my life around during chemo but once my treatments were over, all of this fatigue and discomfort continued. Each morning that I woke up feeling tired and less than my best instantly triggered a wave of self-doubt:

Am I sure I feel under the weather? What if I'm just being lazy? What if I always feel like this from now on?

These thoughts would plague me all day, whether I ended up relaxing or dragging my tired body to work. Something miraculous happened every time I trusted my body, though. If I allowed myself to rest one day, I would wake up the next day feeling back to normal -- full of energy and ready for the day.

It took a long time, but I have finally begun trusting myself and my body. When my energy levels are super low, I take a break if I can. If I have zero motivation to work that day, I give myself a little bit of a breather. I've discovered that for each day that I awake with no energy, I have a week of awesome days.

Part of learning to trust my body has been learning to tend to it. My post-cancer self needs a lot more tending than my pre-cancer self needed. My latest tending project has been an herb garden. Picking out the herbs, taking each small plant and carefully planting it into a new pot and dutifully watering several times a week has proved to be a tender and loving activity for me. The plants cannot be forgotten. They must be watered several times a week or the leaves begin to wither and turn yellow.

I cannot be forgotten. I must be watered several times a week. This has been the greatest lesson of all.

What activities help you to tend to yourself? Share in the comments below or sign up here.