Life After Cancer

New Changes- 1997-2007

My life after cancer included many changes that surprised me. I knew that I had changed. I was braver and took more risks. But more than that, I was very surprised about how much of me had stayed the same. Firstly I could see how impatient I got when people chatted about everyday stuff. Didn’t they know that it was such trivial crap that they were talking about? I mean, who cared about gas prices, food prices? Selfishly I didn’t want to hear about everyday stuff.

I actually didn’t know what I wanted to listen to or about. The things that I cared about, that had seemed important to me before my cancer, were now no longer of interest. They were not on my radar. Except for wine. Yup, I loved a glass or two. I no longer needed to panic if I didn’t have cigarettes in the house, but I definitely wanted at least a bottle of wine in the refrigerator. Life after cancer didn’t have to mean giving up all of my vices! Wine helped squash emotional pain.

But was it cancer that made me feel depressed, directionless and rudderless state? Or was it the basic me? After healing enough to wonder what I would do now I also wondered if someone would show me the way? Did I have a true calling, a passion for something, a one thing? But I had never been wired like that, even as I dreamed of this ideal. I was a “multipotentialite” (from TED, 2015. Emilie Wapnick); no true calling, but many.

I would never be an expert. But I wanted so much to be a nurse, or a teacher when I was a little girl. Next I wanted to be a singer or an actress, but I couldn’t sing. But then I wanted to be an obstetrician after I had my son. Then a captain of a boat or a chef, no “just a cook for me.”  I really wanted to be a secretary and actually became one, for a while and then a teacher; then I got bored. I became a writer for a local fishing magazine, writing about fishing in southern Rhode Island. I became an artist, even winning awards. As Wapnick says, ” We are always starting over, at the beginning.” Life after cancer included my confusions in my prior life and all those that happened after.

Life after cancer also brought up how I reacted to new things that I hadn’t recognized before. I noticed that whenever I became interested in something I’d become so excited, so intense, so focused and all consumed. I could hardly breathe with anticipation. Every time I thought that I had found my specialty I hadn’t. I was a specialist of specialties. This was nerve-wracking this desire to do one great thing . I thought that I had to make a decision, pick something, then do it. Everyone did. So why couldn’t I? So I became a semi-expert in many things.

Life after cancer also included ballet, tap and dancing!! A few months after I started to feel strong again my breathing regulated. My younger sister encouraged me to join a ballet class taught by a friend. I was so out of shape for the lack of doing anything strenuous that it took me months to be stretched enough to move as if I was comfortable with this new ability. Nothing could stop me from putting in all my might, adding weights, going to the gym, taking long hikes. I was multi-moving. One great pleasure was that I lost all of my weight that I had gained after I stopped smoking. I was a train with no brakes and I talked and talked about it –  my poor family and friends, I was a recording stuck on replay.

My blog- Life after cancer
Adult ballet class

I was healthy and happy and I was doing so much that I hadn’t done before my cancer. When you feel healthy you look healthy and act differently. This was a brand new me, a shiny new me. Life after cancer led me to became a member of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. I traveled to DC to talk with our representatives and senators and also gave talks at our state house and counseled people on line. A friend and I joined a cancer group and went out to dinner with girlfriends. I traveled to Europe for the second time and finally got to see Paris and fell in love with it anything French! I wanted to move there. Ah oh! Life after cancer was great!

I had become a whirlwind, a non-stop, ever moving, ever talking, cancer-free person. After a while I was too much of these things. Although I was still exercising, it wasn’t with the same excitement or drive. I started to feel lost again. A new change was about to occur and it hit me smack dab in my face. It was a head-on collision that would change my world once again. I had another cancer. It was another primary lung cancer in my left lung this time. I needed another surgery. I was no longer cancer free. And this time I would probably need chemo. I was at the beginning once again.

4 thoughts on “Life After Cancer

  1. Barbara Washburn says:

    Merry I had NO idea! This is SO open-souled and honest that it takes my breath away! You are a genius- and that is not an easy role to fill with even a series of singular achievements! Your gift is your acute mind and your perceptions … and your generosity in sharing them! And clearly you have been blessed in having been able to develop MANY ways to share what you are examining or what you have learned from your own life experience – cancer and all! I am virtually in awe of you!

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