Healthy Denial

It seems that I have entered the everyday world psychologically. The mundane is the order of the day. Kid’s camp schedule , school supplies, patients and their woes ,meal planning,  fretting over the dirty switch plates and chucking the expired over the counter medicines. The usual. The ordinary. Ordinary feels good, ordinary feels normal, reassuring. No news, no excitement, no queries.
I get up, drag myself out of the bed, scan my Facebook feed, catch up on the happenings of the world and guess what? It takes a while before something reminds me of ” cancer”. Occasionally my left arm hurts in the morning if I slept turned on that side.There are parts of the upper arm that are still numb two years later. Those days,  I am reminded early in the morning but it doesn’t linger , the thought, for too long. Most days I am up looking for coffee just like life was.

Life was, or perhaps I was. I am now. I am , post cancer. Post suffering. Post misery. Still existing. Still surviving. Still fighting.
I am enjoying return to everyday life . There is a part of me that is very anxious to believe that it’s all over. I soothe myself with statistics. About 90 percent recurrences of breast cancer will occur within the first two years of diagnosis. It helps me breathe easy. I just crossed my two year mark. Statistically I should be relieved, very relieved but it’s not easy to accept or embrace…this back to the everyday life thing.

I have friends going through biopsies, chemo, reconstruction and some terminal. I feel guilty. Survivor guilt is common among cancer survivors, I feel it too. How come others are still dealing with cancer? What about me? yes or no ? Am I suffering less than them or more?  If less, why more for them? There are no absolute measures of guilt. Its just a nagging visceral feeling. You just have to cope.
Sometimes, I want to escape it all. Take a cancer break, pretend it never happened. Deny all of it. But it’s hard.
I sometimes want to embrace denial. Denial is a coping mechanism after all. In so many ways life requires from me to deny that cancer happened. It wants me to move forward and get my morning coffee just like I always did and ignore the period when I lost the taste of it completely.
Life wants me to get moving, never mind the lingering fatigue I feel every day. My brain wants to deny the clicking sounds my joints make as if I aged a decade in two years. The image in the mirror wants to look away from the scars.
Perhaps there is a thing called ” Healthy Denial” , a way to lull my self out of perpetual anxiety of recurrence into the everyday world. Perhaps to be happy again I need to close all doors to cancer. But can I? Or can In living with cancer, uncertainty is a life time deal. Recurrences do happen much later as well. But my anxiety has lessened. I don’t think about death and dying as often. I am even getting charmed by the idea that perhaps it is behind me. I dance gingerly around everyday life. At times, I am ambivalent to re enter fully the everyday life , afraid that I may have to pull back.

If I dont deny, the risk is there of emotional exhaustion, which may be so toxic to my physical health. The best I achieve is tentative denial and it varies from moment to moment.

It’s a daily challenge and I ask myself, how well will you live today?

I wrote this on my Facebook page the other day, ” if you didn’t know how old you were , how old would you feel today?”
Most of what we fear is in our minds. Optimal living requires freeing ourselves from the constraints of how life ” should be ” and requires us to embrace the possibilities. Fear is the enemy. Being afraid is a big limitation.
For now , I am choosing ” healthy denial”, perhaps it is all over , even if it isn’t for now, I will believe it is.

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One thought on “Healthy Denial

  1. I miss my denial. I think we all have some level of it left after cancer — we need to keep going. I don’t think of death as often as I used to except when I am been reminded of how short life is (when other patients die) and when those oncology appts start to come. I feel I need to be realistic, although it is hard to identify what level of it is considered healthy, since we are all so different. We also don’t know what tomorrow may bring. We all have our own comfort zone. I am glad you have found yours.

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