This Infernal Racket | my life, after cancer

A Toronto-based lifestyle blog by a 2x cancer survivor

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I am surviving, not thriving

It's July 28, 2022. It's 6 years in remission. It's 6 years spent slowly healing to whatever my new 'normal' is. And today I realized that I am not thriving right now, I am surviving. But that is okay.

You cannot be thriving and your best self all the time, it's unrealistic. I have been working on connecting, listening and healing my inner child in the last while and here are some things I have realized that are contributing to my current survival state vs my previous thriving state.

It's hard to admit something you don't like about yourself. It's hard to sit down and be honest about your flaws and how they hurt you more than help you. I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 21. Legally I was an adult but in reality, I was still a child, naive to the world and living with rose-coloured glasses on. I started my cancer journey with the intention of not letting myself feel any emotions so that I could actually survive the disease and live. There is no bravery in that. You live or you die, it's a choice. 

During my years of treatment, I was shown a world of incredible medicine and human resiliency. I was also shown pain, sorrow, emptiness, and death. Even though my family was very supportive, I was alone. A little piece of me died every day for the better part of 5 years. I began to stress about being alone forever. I did not have the mental space to feel and deal with my shit so instead, I became hard and mean and unwilling.

These anxious and avoidant attachment styles developed to protect you in childhood. Your mind recognized that in the situation or environment you were in, being open and vulnerable was dangerous. So you developed protective measures to take care of yourself when others would not. 

As time passed, I slowly began to feel better with therapy, social connections to other YA cancer individuals, medication and reconnecting with things that made me happy (work, reading, fitness, food, etc). I realize I never actually took the time to heal that 21-year-old who withered away as a result of my cancer. I became increasingly anxious about life, and that the people in my life would leave me, or not like me, the thoughts would consume me and I would sink into depression episodes lasting days or weeks or even months. The anxious attachment says, "you are not giving me enough" when really the people in your life are trying to give as much as they can, but you cannot always see it. 

I am surviving, not thriving because I am understanding that I need to do some work on healing my anxiety. Writing helps, going for walks, and doing things alone create comfort in not having to share everything with others. Finding comfort in taking space for emotional needs, and not feeling like everyone will leave you because of it. Part of me says to not let my guard down again, to not be vulnerable.

I know who I am. I know I am kind and caring and I love too hard. I know I am compassionate and headstrong and stubborn, but also full of life. I want simple moments, not grand gestures. I know I would give the world and rearrange my entire life for someone (friend, family, partner, etc). I also know that's not a good idea lol. I know I am full of life. It's easy to forget these things when your depression is smothering you into thinking you are worthless.

So yeah, right now I am not thriving. I am learning and surviving. I cry a lot, and eating is difficult. I go to work and do the best damn job I can do. The rest is a work in progress. I am a work in progress. I am surviving. And that is okay.


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