For a long time after a cancer diagnosis, it can feel like life will never move on. In this blog post, Steve shares the moment that he realized that he has finally emotionally moved past his diagnosis.
The month of October is a very happy time for me and my wife. On the 11th, we officially marked the point of spending over half of our lives together, after 19 wonderful years. My God, we finally made it, another summer is over, the leaves are falling, and another year is passing by. On the 16th we celebrated our wedding anniversary, and on the 27th I turned 38 years old. Turning 38 is strangely a big deal to me not because of the number, but because of how I feel about it. During my first few years after cancer, I was convinced I was never going to make it to 40. Now, that milestone feels like it's right around the corner for the first time. I have this renewed sense of optimism and hope about my future today that I hadn't felt last year, and it feels wonderful.
We took a trip for our anniversary, as we always have since cancer. It's been important for us to do after all we've been through, and this year we landed at Virginia Beach, where I proposed to my wife. In the blink of an eye, so much time has passed since I was diagnosed with cancer at 33. My wife and I have really enjoyed life and each other since our cancer fight. Nothing is taken for granted anymore. We've made memories from all our adventures together and some friends for life along the way. A whole lot of LIVING has been done, but most don't know and could never see how much I'd also been struggling on the inside. In the midst of such wonderful times after cancer, my mind, body, and spiritual self were all still raw and hurting, and in great need of healing.
It took years, but a rigorous exercise regimen that I focused on finally forced my body into the full recovery that I enjoy today. I feel decades younger today than I have in the past. Running, writing, and mindful mediation were the outlets I needed to harness such powerful emotions after cancer, and some wonderful mentors helped to guide me along the way.
I had also been very conflicted spiritually. For other young adult survivors, having cancer makes us fear that our lives are on a short clock. We feel rushed to try to accomplish whatever it is we were meant to accomplish in our lives, but I didn't really know who I was, what I believed in, nor what I was put here to do. I found the way to get in touch with my spiritual self, found my purpose in this world, and a system of beliefs that I could truly believe in with all of my heart and soul. This brought me tremendous comfort, and helped ease my mind and soothe my soul.
I also learned the importance of unconditional self-love, and how to forgive for the first time in my life. A few people hurt me so badly that I'd wanted to destroy them, and could have. The passage of time has taught me that these people served a higher purpose in my life, and I now feel nothing but gratitude towards them. Everything happens for a reason. Life can be complicated and confusing, but if you look for meaning you'll find it.
The beautiful beach sunrise I enjoyed on our trip was symbolic of my life after cancer: From that moment of complete darkness and hopelessness, to progressing slowly with the smallest rays of hope, life has blossomed into something truly beautiful and breathtaking. Tears fell and a feeling of peace and oneness swept over me as I realized just how far I'd come. How many times had I burned myself to the ground in order to keep evolving, and how many times would I have to do so again? For a time it felt like the answer was “forever”, but today it is “no more”. I've healed all of me- mind, body, and spirit. My long struggles after cancer are over. I've finally mastered these rough seas, and have never felt better about life than I do today. Life really has moved on after cancer.
Have you experienced this feeling after having cancer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!