I do have some fears about finishing with all this, which I guess is a good sign, that I sense I will finish with it. Still, my fears make for another Catch-22. There are a lot of those. I am afraid I will come out the other side of this and be completely different. And, I am afraid I will come out the other side of this and be just the same.
I don't know how to picture what would be so completely diffferent about me afterwards, but I fear the potential. Of course, there are good ways to end up different. I could find my passion, my life's purpose. Not to brag too much about my cousin, but post-cancer she has created a fulfilling and purposeful life of being a patient and research advocate for breast cancer. She is brilliant and well informed, and of use to many, many people, including me. I could finally have the epiphane of what I want to do with my life, which if it happens will have been a LONG time coming. I could find myself gainfully employed or focused and on the path back to school, for something I am sure about wanting to know.
I could spend the rest of my life grinding my teeth down to nothing with worry, which I realize is what I am doing now. I could remain hidden away in my house, removed and permanently different from most of the people who know me, except for the people who have or had cancer, feeling like an alien. I know I have always been a worrier, but I could end up a pretty different type of worrier than the standard Jewish girl I have always been. I could be permanently stuck in my foggy chemo brain, unable to really function outside the house, in quick or lively conversations.
Or, I fear I could come out just the same - uncertain of my prospects, sending out resumes for work I don't have the confidence I could do. I can't think of anything more depressing than coming through all of this only to once again be sitting around with the Daily Astorian help wanted ads. And yet, I knew when I sold my lovely book shop that gainful, satisfying employment would be hard to come by again, especially after having a job I loved for many years. Granted, the last years were difficult, and I had stopped being able to love what the business needed to become to survive. Another Catch-22 was before me. I loved being a bookseller, but there was no longer a place for the bookseller I wanted to be and had been.
Even before the cancer, I began to realize as my bookselling days became more distant, that I had forced myself to lose a large piece of my identity. I would see people in the grocery who knew me in the book shop, and eventually over time, some literally stopped recognizing me. For real. My bookseller self actually began to disappear. I had another identity, of which I was very proud. I was an elected school board director. That identity closed itself up quickly, by necessity. At the swim meet Saturday an aquaintance asked if there were to be budget cuts in the upcoming year. I had no idea whatsoever (though here in Oregon "yes" is a pretty good guess).
So, people say that cancer kind of strips a person bare. Many people say that there is a very clear line that separates life before diagnosis and life after, and I find that to be true. As soon as I was diagnosed, I literally had trouble remembering before - the immediate before, two lovely weddings during August, our trip to Maine, and actually the whole year became a blur. So inevitably, I have to wonder what the distinction will be between who I was before and who I will be after. I was somewhat of a neurotic, messy person before... The mystery awaits.
The funny thing about all this is that last night I was talking about it with Jon, and for the first time I can remember, he had no answer. I left him without speech, which if you know him, is darn funny. He did finally come up with the idea that he thinks my fifties will be powerful years. I will hold on to that, and hope for the best.