Identity

Today in my stage IV cancer group we talked about “Identity”.
That’s been coming up a lot for me lately.  Cancer has kinda been my full time job since I’ve been diagnosed.  In some ways that’s been good.  I needed that time to process and heal.  In other ways it started to drive me batty.  Like cancer was consuming every part of my day.  That I AM cancer.  And I’m not.  By any means.

It’s a tough spot to be in sometimes.  I will admit that cancer has “come in handy” on certain occasions where I didn’t really want to participate but didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Yes, I’ve played my cancer card.

I figure if I have to be a carrying member, why not use it?
It’s a bit of a double edge though.  I don’t want to be treated differently, yet, sometimes the card does come in handy.
I’ve started to let my hair grow back in.  Not only because it’s time, but because I’m getting a little tired of the looks.  Of people treating me differently.  Of being treated like a sick person.  But then there are times when I really am sick and need to be treated as such.  It’s a hard line to follow sometimes.  And very confusing to my identity.  Which role do I really want to play?
Of course I want to be well and treated as such.  I want people to think I’m strong.  I want to BE strong.  So do I rip up the card?  Do I stick it behind the library card in the wallet?  What exactly is the right thing to do?

I’ve been trying more and more lately to “put cancer away”.  To live my life as I would have had I never been diagnosed.  MJ and I have started planning a big trip for next summer.  I’m going to start volunteering at our church one day a week.  I started back at school.  I’m going to sign up for more 5k and 10k runs.  I’d like to make it to a 1/2 marathon by next year.  I’ll still go to my cancer support groups and I’ll still have chemo to deal with, but I want to make it just a part time job now.  Get back to really living.  Living because I love it not because I’m scared.  And I feel like the fair thing to do to keep in line with everything is to “get rid of my cancer card” too.  Play by normal life rules.

What would you do?
And I’m curious…  has my identity changed in your eyes?  Am I different now?

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3 thoughts on “Identity

  1. Heather, you never cease to give me hope and inspire me with your spirit. I love you and hope to see you very soon. Oh… and your cancer better be ready for my warrior pic I’ll be sending your way shortly!

    Love you and the family with all my heart.

  2. Heather…all of us may have that cancer card deep inside as we all have that potential. You played that card, so tuck it in a drawer so that one day in the distant future when you find it, you will be able to say, “I had that once, I beat the odds and I am a better person because I looked death straight in the eye and said ‘not yet God, you have too much for me to do!'” Whether you know it or not, you have taught each of us what it means to be weakened physically yet strengthened emotionally and spiritually. You have made us all more faithful in our prayers not only for you but for others. You have taught us that we need to be connected and stay, even if it is through technology with hundreds of miles distance. Through your experience Heather, I can say that I am so blessed to have gotten to know you at such a personal level and admire that you opened yourself up to everyone at the most vulnerable time in your life. My own personal thought is that your identity has not changed, you have just been able to reveal to us all just who you are and what you believe! Your story is an amazing one that we have all taken to heart! XOXOXO

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