Three Years Add Up

It ‘s been three years since I was declared cancer-free! Three years and I’m still left speechless by the thought. Did I really have cancer? Am I in remission now? Am I sure about that?

Don’t worry. I’m still cancer free (got the clear from the doc back in April). I’ve been trying to plan what I was going to say for this post for, I don’t know, months? A year? Every step I’ve taken forward has taken me in a new direction that changes what I’m going to say, what I want to reflect on and even what I want to share with you.

And I know. It’s been a very long time since I’ve shared anything at all. And I know, I made a promise before that I was going to be back. No more promises. I’m not a perfect individual and I can’t promise anything. I use this platform as a way to share my own life experiences so that I may be able to help the next person down the road who finds themselves in my shoes. Regardless of the impact it makes on the universe around me, I want to write right now for my sake.

So, I’m going to write.

Here I am, sitting in my bed, staring at my screen wondering how I’m going to explain what I’m feeling. For the last couple years, Halloween has haunted me. And not in the cool, hipster “yeah I was totally haunted by a ghost,” sort of way. I mean in the “gross, waking up from a nightmare and vomiting in my toilet at 3 in the morning” kind of way. I mean in the “having an anxiety attack while sitting in a classroom learning about the naumachia in Ancient Greece and excusing myself to the hallway so I don’t have a public meltdown” kind of way.

For me, the treatment process is done. Chemo is done. It’s been done for a very long time. But healing is a lifelong process that I’ve been actively working on day in and day out. Each day is better, but I would get to those anniversary dates and all of my work reverts and I feel like I’ve taken 15 steps backwards in the process. And I can’t place my finger on it, but this year is different for some reason. I’m not reverting the way I typically expect.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still struggling- I won’t lie about that. Do I still have some nightmares? Sure. Do I still catch my anxious, wandering mind drift to the insane idea that a cold I have is covering up more severe, underlying symptoms? Absolutely.

I’m also really, really, REALLY proud. I look back at the last three years and I think about all that I’ve done. Come with me for a moment in my small time capsule:

I got cancer, underwent chemotherapy, and SURVIVED.

I went from this:

To this:

And now to this:

My love and respect for my own body has never been so strong.

I went back to school, during which time I stage managed two dance productions, assistant directed a fringe festival and a mainstage production and directed my senior project which I received grant funding from the university for. AND THEN I GRADUATED. Even more I graduated with honors. This past summer after college was a bit weird. Long story short: I moved home, did an internship at a library, a directing residency at a theatre and worked at a retail store for… kicks? (Money. It was for money.)

Then my super cool residency and internship ended and I was stuck in that lost sensation of not knowing where my life was headed (side note: young adult life is just a cyclical process of feeling lost, finding your bearings, getting yourself in order, then getting the rug pulled out from under you. Rinse and repeat).

I felt this way, that is, until I got a call asking me to come work for a local theatre and I said yes. I would walk into a beautiful building with such historic grace and elegance every day and I was getting paid to do it!

And then I made the decision to walk away. A decision that is heart-breaking, but I don’t regret. I’m eager for what’s to come and who gets to come on my little life journey with me wherever it may take me.

If there’s anything I can offer to you it’s this: YOU are so much more than one event in your life- good or bad. You aren’t loved for what you’ve done or what you’ve experienced, but for who you are. You are loved because you exist.

So has it been three years since I was diagnosed? Yes. Did I really have cancer? Yes. Am I in remission? HELL yes.

When I get those nightmares or I feel my breath quicken, I look at the apartment that I’m now living in, or the office I work in and I remember I am more than that singular experience. It’s one piece of a very confusing culmination that is me: Dana. A young individual learning how to be an adult and maintain a loving soul in a world that forgets it’s okay to be happy.

But if there’s anything that I could have possibly learned from my cancer experience and from the cancer experiences of people around me is that I cannot live in fear of a date or an anniversary. I cannot live waiting for the next bad thing to happen. I know I didn’t mention them, but the last three years have brought a lot of negative experiences as well.

But they don’t matter. They don’t matter because I processed, learned and moved forward, carrying it with me to the next experience- good or bad. I lived through them. I lived.

I’m living.

Until Next Time,

Dana

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