One of my favorite authors, Alice Hoffman, wrote a tiny little book titled, “Survival Lessons.” I picked it up because it was small – about as big as my attention span on some days lately, and, well, I’m kind of into the whole survival thing also. It wasn’t until I read the preface that I learned she is a 15-year breast cancer survivor.
I smiled and nodded at many things she wrote, about enjoying yourself, spending time with friends and family. How your truest friends will be the ones who want to sit with you through three hour treatments, bring meals, glow sticks to scans, or just sit when that’s all the energy you have.
But some things she wrote I need to remember, because I find myself forgetting it’s okay to give in to myself, to take naps because they really are more of a necessity than a luxury now, even as I step further through my treatment. She says, “Go and don’t feel guilty,” I’m still working on that – even as I feel the iron clamp of headache begin to squeeze at my temples – a sure sign that I should rest.
“Time is different now. Don’t worry about wasting it. It belongs to you,” Alice says. Don’t be ashamed about wasting time doing unproductive things like watching the rain or the clouds or the frost creep across the window. In the days following treatments, it’s a struggle to become social again, to drag through work and responsibilities when the nest I create for recuperating is so inviting.
In that short little book it reminded me that the time to empty my bucket list is now. After all, what am I waiting for? All the books I wanted to read gather dust, all the things I planned to save for later, well, it’s later.
It goes back to giving in to yourself. I’m not good at that. Even though melanoma can sneak up again at any moment, I have to remind myself that resting will help my body fight back, even as there is no evidence of disease right now. That hard-working German farm blood still surges through my veins taunting me – come on you sissy, it’s not so bad, push through, you will be fine, who needs to rest?
As Alice said at the end of the book, some things stay with you forever. Cancer changes you and it’s never the same. Forgive me if I indulge. Time is different now – it belongs to me and I have people to spend time with, books to read, babies to hold, hugs to give, naps to take. The dirty dishes and floors can wait.