April 12, 2015
My mother and I were sitting on a bench in one of Toronto’s mini parks, just a hop and a skip away from where I live. It was one of those parks most often frequented by dog owners and their dogs doing their business and by people trying to take a shortcut and avoid the busy main streets. The grass was still brown and the wind was bitterly cold. We didn’t feel the cold at first, we were more interested in getting some fresh air and in the tuna sandwich we were sharing.
I had had a rough couple of days. Not that they were bad days necessarily but more overwhelming and emotional. I had taken my graduation photo – a few months premature but which I viewed as an incentive to get through this degree. I had gone for an interview for a position that starts in September, I had been working on the last assignment for what will hopefully be my last course in my MPH degree, I had been thinking about where to do my last practicum.
I feel like I am caught in limbo, trying to figure out what I want to do next. I am waiting for my appointment with the endocrinologist on May 6th, but I know that regardless of the news, I won’t be having any more treatment for the time being. The radioactivity in me is still working and will keep doing its job over the next few months…But in the meantime, what comes next?
After my body scan in February, the radiologist had said to me, “That’s it! You’re all done.”
“What do you mean?” I had responded, “I’m just supposed to go live my life?” As if the last year with cancer hadn’t existed….
From speaking with others in my support group, people living with cancer often have a challenging time transitioning into what their lives will be post-treatment. From diagnosis and through treatment, we were in fight mode. Now, I feel a little lost. I have no doctor’s plan, I will have no schedule of appointments and doctor’s visits, at least to take me from week to week or month to month.
What about work? There are researchers looking into how to best integrate cancers fighters or survivors into the workforce again and what supports and barriers exists. At this point, I am feeling how important that is. I know I can put my mind and heart into my work like previously, but, at least initially, I would prefer an environment that will appreciate that I may need a little flexibility.
So I was sitting on the bench with my mother, talking to her about all these things that I’ve been feeling and the uncharted territory I’m in, when a gust of wind blows a piece of spinach straight out of the tuna sandwich that my mother was holding, halfway up to her mouth. You had to have been there to see our faces. Our laughter rang through the little park.
A passerby must have seen us laughing together, because she stopped, pointed straight at me and said,”The most beautiful face”, then she pointed at my mother and said “The most beautiful mother”.
I suppose the most beautiful face we can wear is when despite all the uncertainty, the fear and the pain of the past, we can still find joy in those simple moments.