I received a parking ticket yesterday. I wasn’t even aware of it until I turned on my windshield wipers and saw a piece of paper clinging onto its dear little life as the wipers thrashed against its poor heartless soul. I was hopeful that it was just an annoying advertisement as I pulled over and grabbed it before it could fly away. I looked at it and did the weird one-eyebrow-up expression, as I saw the angry words “PARKING VIOLATION” crying tears of black ink from my wiper fluid. I tossed it aside, shrugged, and continued my merry way to the store while singing a very not-in-tune version of Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us.
One of the most cliched questions to ask a cancer survivor is, “how did cancer change your life?” It’s also my favorite question because I have different answers depending on how much I like the person. If I don’t like you, I would say something along the lines of, “I get a lot more wedgies when I wear shorts now because of the uneven sizes of my thighs. Surgery is a bitch.” But if I happen to like you (which I probably do, because I’m just so full of love), I’ll give a more meaningful answer:
Carefree would be the perfect adjective to describe me post-cancer. Not to say that I have completely disregarded the bigger factors of my life – my career, family, friends, what to eat for dessert, etc. However, I actually find myself enjoying the smaller problems – such as getting parking tickets -which I would’ve stressed about pre-cancer. One year ago today was the completion of my second chemo treatment. Aside from the physical stressors, I also worried about scans, tumors, surgeries and the burdens that my parents were facing daily. Life felt like holding on to a gigantic broken umbrella that was trying to protect me, but was actually letting more rain in than it kept out.
Even before treatments ended, I decided to let go of that umbrella, and thus letting go of trying to control every aspect of my life, even the things I evidently could not change. I gave myself the responsibility to do one thing: breathe. With each breath I took, I reminded myself it was another chance to do something, anything, with my life. And I did. Ever since my health improved, I’ve discovered multiple new projects to work on while continuing ones I’ve always loved. I’ve resumed cycling, adding an extra mile each time as a reminder that there could always be one day where I won’t get a chance to do it again.
What else has changed since my diagnosis? I sing louder and dance more – usually while driving, which is probably a bad idea because I find myself putting both my hands up…like the ceiling can’t hold me.