I hope you have taken the time to read our guest Shawna Altenburger's blog, What a Difference a Year Makes. Shawna writes, in such a beautiful and honest way, how her family has been living in the world of autism. I thank Shawna for her courage and for sharing her journey with us; she inspired me to reflect on my past year. What a difference a year makes, indeed!
It was this week, one year ago, when we came down from Boston to visit Fredericksburg because it was official that Steve's job was transferring to the DC area. Steve and I were really excited to show the kids around their new hometown; as MWC sweethearts, we had often walked the downtown streets, hoping to live in a historic Fredericksburg house one day. Our excitement quickly turned to panic and heartbreak when my cancerous tumors were discovered soon after returning to Boston. Purchasing a home, working and reconnecting with the Fredericksburg community all faded, our dream was put on hold.
A close family friend of mine gave me a card that read, "Sometimes, when life hands you lemons, you don't feel like making lemonade."
Those lemons were coming at me fast. I had multiple identity changes happen all at once - I left a 20-year career in higher education administration, became a cancer patient, and adjusted to being a stay-at-home mother and partner to my often-works-from-home husband. All that change was a lot to process and in many ways, as crazy as it sounds, fighting the cancer helped me to escape my other identity crises. Sometimes, compartmentalizing is all you can do, just take it one day, one task at a time.
Of course, I would not wish for my cancer, but being a breast cancer fighter is what helped me feel strong, supported, almost invincible, and now, as I head into a different phase, my flexbility to accept change and kick-start a "can-do" attitude is fading. It is a strange and complicated feeling because I am grateful to be alive and scared to not know what to do with the gift of life.
I am in remission; I've started my journey of survivorship and so, in some ways, the hard work begins. I can't escape facing those other changing identities anymore. Looking back, I've come to realize that as a cancer patient, I learned more about how I want to improve as a mother, wife, sister, daughter, and working professional. One area I'm trying to improve is helping myself (and others) not to minimize themselves or their accomplishments. I catch myself using the word "just" a lot, as in, "I'm just a volunteer." Don't do it! My hope is that my time spent fighting cancer will help me chart a course for the future. I think this Wisdom Quote says it best, "Never let your past experiences harm your future. Your past can't be altered and your future doesn't deserve the punishment."
So, along with my physical therapy exercises, I'm adding that to my daily routine - to not punish myself or my future. And, while I'm working on that, I'll also be helping Steve on our new house. I'm sure cleaning, stripping, sanding, and painting will give me lots of time to see into the future. We hope to be fully moved in by mid-June - we've already got a couple of garden decorations. That dream on hold just may be taking shape after all.