Day 29: Reflective

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Wow. I’m almost there. This is my next to last blog post for the 30-day challenge I gave myself. I’ll continue writing the blog in some way, although not daily, as it’s too much for me and for you! Writing this blog has made me feel a certain way now as I felt several months after finishing treatment: Reflective.

When you’re in the middle of a crisis or a difficult ongoing situation, it’s hard to reflect on your life. That’s because whatever’s happening IS your life along with your daily responsibilities. It permeates your brain and rattles your nerves. When I was in breast cancer treatment, I often felt like that managing treatment was all I could handle. I couldn’t put my mind and emotional state too heavily on other things. Everything else I did was going through the motions.

Once I was out of the treatment and was free and clear of cancer, I could be reflective about my life. I could consider how some days I felt that I was so strong to have made it through, and other times I’d think, Who am I kidding! I didn’t handle it well at all! The truth is somewhere in the middle. I thought about all the people who helped me get through it, especially Jeff, and how much it meant to me to get an outpouring of help, support and love.

I felt reflective about all the life I missed. It was like I had my own personal COVID restrictions! During the pandemic, I feel like life is happening but I’m not doing much living. I was the same way during chemo. The parade was passing me by. At least I got to do the most important things, so that was something. Still, emotionally I wasn’t the same, like a floating drugged feeling in my head and body affecting what I saw, experienced, and felt.

I often thought about all my body went through. Chemotherapy drugs attack cells, period. The goal is for the drugs to attack and damage or destroy cancer cells. In reality, normal cells become part of the attack. Chemo drugs can’t tell which cells are cancer and which aren’t, so a lot of normal, healthy cells are damaged and destroyed, causing side effects. Eventually, the healthy cells recover, although some damage that was done is lasting. I was left with neuropathy and some other issues. It’s a crazy thing to reflect on but it’s the best-known way to kill and prevent many cancers. Hopefully, immunotherapy that targets only cancer cells will be the most effective treatment in the future, or better yet, we find a cure.

I feel reflective about what could have happened. Some people have cancer that’s much more aggressive, more difficult to treat, or is found in a later stage and has already spread into the lymph nodes or other organs. My case was caught early enough and had characteristics that made it pretty straight forward to treat. I must confess – I had skipped a year of my mammogram. I usually got them every year, but because of being busy or whatever, I allowed two years to pass. If I’d gone the previous year, maybe the cancer was there in an earlier stage and even easier to treat. I can’t change what I did. I can only live and learn.

Living and learning is the purpose of being reflective. When you go through a tough time, it’s good to assess what you’ve been through and how it’s affected your life. Think about how it’s changed you. I feel that I’m more empathetic and kind toward people now. Also, some of my lasting side effects make life more difficult, so I talk and complain more about my health issues. What about you? How has breast cancer and treatment changed you? Or some other illness, serious accident, or extreme situation? Reflection has helped me to put the whole experience in perspective and allowed me to go on with my life using it without dwelling on it. I hope you can do the same.

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