I realise that the more I move forward, the more I appreciate things differently. In particular, things which were mundane, trivial and routine are taking on a much greater significance.
I don’t think I am alone. A few weeks ago one of my breast cancer blog pals, Chemobabe posted the following Facebook status.
“HAIR UPDATE: I wore it up today. This is a big deal. Thanks for listening”.
Pre chemo and hair loss putting your hair up would probably be a minute, unnoticeable action and one which is completely taken for granted. But for those of us who have lost hair and who have been measuring re-growth by the millimetre while we stare at it willing it to grow just a bit quicker, it is an important benchmark. As Chemobabe said, “this is a big deal”. It is one of those things that you want to stop and tell people you meet in the street, colleagues, family and even strangers. Thank heavens for the internet and our community of folks going through such similar stages.
Last week, I was in a very similar situation when I had a haircut. It was not my first haircut since the hair started re-growing, but it was the first haircut that really looked like a style, and not an attempt at re-growth management. I came out of the hairdresser with a grin from ear to ear, and when I got home took some pictures which I then posted on Facebook. I nearly even posted it here and broke my psychological (and largely ineffective) barrier of self-imposed anonymity. It was the first time I had taken a picture of myself which was more than a record to track how I am recovering. It was a huge step forward in how I feel, my confidence, how I look and made an important statement that I am moving forward. It was one heck of a big deal.
My trip to Bangkok last November was another big deal. It was my first visit to Bangkok for a reason which was not hospital, particularly breast cancer related. I was attending a conference and presenting a paper with my colleague. I always get a buzz from participating in conferences, meeting new people, hearing new ideas, connecting with fellow professionals and learning of advances in our field. However, I was ridiculously excited about this conference. It represented an affirmation of my re-entry and credibility in my professional life. And let’s be honest, when you are in the thick of treatment, with independence massively compromised, there is a horrible fear that you will never be able to pick up the pieces again and move forward. I was also thrilled that I was feeling stronger physically and confident enough to travel alone – something which I had completely taken for granted before the diagnosis. It was all a huge deal.
And now I am on the threshold of another big deal. At the start of the year, I picked three words to guide and inspire me throughout the year. I picked “Harmony, Vitality and Adventure” based on this rationale.
Tomorrow will have a focus on adventure. I will be travelling out of town, to the field. This is part of my work which I love. It is particularly poignant because it is my first field trip since being ill. It is even more significant because I discovered “the lump” only 9 days after returning from my last field trip. I have developed an involuntary mental association between field travel and cultivating cancer. I need to blast those associations and continue moving forward. It will be physically demanding as well as professionally challenging. It will be, I am sure, refreshing. It will be a clear test of my recovery, resilience and stamina. It will be an important benchmark, and I hope it will be an adventure.
And it will be a really BIG DEAL.