This is going to be an interesting transition.
For the past five months I have been a cancer patient. I’ve been treated for advanced stage colon cancer with various heavy duty chemo drugs, been poked, prodded, squeezed, examined, had blood drawn about 20 times, been given steroids, various anti nausea meds, vitamins, etc. I am currently 20 doses (10 days) of oral meds away from officially completing my chemo treatment. I haven’t been deemed “in remission” yet. But hopefully my scan a month from now will indicate that I am.
It’s easy to acquire an identity from something like this. My oncologist calls me a trouper, says I’m tough. My physician’s assistant calls me “the poster child.” Cancer fighter, chemo girl, positive attitude lady, fearless patient, cancer “victim” etc. So when you are in the formidable position to graduate to “remission” your identity may actually go through a crisis.
You may go through a crisis from the sudden lack of attention you became accustomed to. Empty mail boxes suck!
You may not remember how to tackle all of the responsibilities you have to re-encumber yourself with. Hmmm, how does this here dishwasher work, again?
You may have gotten used to playing “the cancer card.” Best excuse ever for skipping the bane of my existence: baby/bridal showers and children’s birthday parties!
You may feel lost without the constant stream of visitors and flowers. Do people still love me? Do they know it’s still hard and scary? I’m not just suddenly magically better – these side effects linger like an unwanted guest, and might not ever leave!
You may have become comfortable with living day to day and eschewed making long term future plans. Maybe that 401k doesn’t look so useless all of a sudden. You may balk at the idea that you have to think beyond life with cancer having a lead role. You go from writing Wills and bucket lists to making grocery lists and weight loss goals.
Cancer can give you a strong identity and when cancer leaves, an identity crisis may present itself. Who am I now, without the clear and present danger of cancer? Do I go from being a cancer warrior to a cancer scout? A hunter of sorts? A constant fearer of its return? Do I think the best and believe it’s gone forever? That God has healed me? That I kicked its ass for good? Or watch for it at every turn?
Do I freak at every twinge, bump, lump and pinch? Do I live fully grateful for each moment? Or fear the worst?
Who am I after cancer? Knowing it could come back? Knowing I could have to do all of this again?
An identity crisis seems nearly inevitable.
Here’s why it isn’t.
I’ve approached this fight from a singular perspective – as a child of God, loved and accepted because of Christ’s sacrifice. I’m God’s kid. He works all things for my good. The cancer. The chemo. The (hopefully) remission.
My identity can’t be shaken because it is derived from my relationship to the one thing that is unchanging. I can be beaten and blown by the wind, of course. I can forget my identity at times. But by reminding myself of who I really am, listening for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, and surrounding myself with mature, similarly weathered followers of Christ who remind me when I forget…that’s how I stay anchored. That’s why I’m not confused about who I am now.
I’m lying in bed, toughing out what I hope and pray will be the last day I ever have like this. A tired, ouchie, prickly, lonely day where I both wish for company and cringe at the thought of it. I’m over this crappy way of spending weekends. And yet, I’m at peace. I’m grateful. I’m amazed at God’s mercies. I’m smiling because Jesus has been in this fire with me the whole time. We know, that those who follow Christ will suffer. But we will never suffer alone. Sometimes it’s been just me and Jesus. But many times you’ve been his hands and feet. I don’t have photos of nearly everyone who has helped me through. But here’s a nice sample.