Identity

By | February 2, 2017

As part of the PhD process, I’ve been reading through my blog from the beginning. I wrote it, but I have never actually read it – at least not in this way.

I am immediately struck by how my memory of the time doesn’t completely align with what I wrote. I know that what I wrote was a much more accurate reflection of what I was thinking than my memory of that time. There are a few places where I realize that what I wrote doesn’t even begin to capture what I was feeling – I can tell when I was holding back to help protect family members who were reading – but there were many times where I was fearful, in pain, and honest about it – that I don’t actually remember – at least until I read about it.

I’ve also been struck by how well I managed to write through (and see) brain fog. Now I know there are additional brain fog moments – which I haven’t gotten to year – but certainly the early days of taxol, and the cognitive challenges I was facing – I wrote about in some detail. I will write more about this later, once I’ve read more, as I know that my cognitive issues continued for much longer than I realized.

One of the themes of my posts have been my exploration around identity. Heck, the subtext of this site is “I never thought I’d want to identify as a breast cancer survivor”. I was deep into exploration of my identity when I got diagnosed, so it was definitely something that was on the forefront of my mind when I started this blog. What I find interesting now is that the things I was worried about then no longer worry me. I care a lot less about what other people think of me. I’d be naive to say I didn’t care, just that opinions of others are generally less of a concern to me now. It is less of a reason for me making the decisions that I do.

I also wrote a lot about body image. I wrote about my concerns as I was making a decision about surgery. I remember being so opposed to and incensed by reconstruction, and then that changed – and yet the blog doesn’t even begin to express how strong my feelings were. In so many ways, in my memory of that time, I was over-amplifying my outrage in order to compensate for my true desire to reconstruct.

Today was a bit of a landmark day – well maybe not landmark but important. Over the last few months, I have been showing a little of my naked body in the gym change room. Not usually a lot, but really, I was becoming less and less worried about putting moisturizer on my scars before putting my clothes on. In early days, I would only do this in the shower stall, where I knew I had complete privacy. Today, I chose not to worry in any way. I let my towel drop to my feet, and slowly applied moisturizer before putting clothes on. I just didn’t care anymore. I felt like I was even challenging others to ask the question. If anyone stared, it would be a great conversation starter. If someone asked about my scars or my surgery, I could explain, no this was not a cosmetic choice, rather it was cancer that forced my hand. I was OK with it before, but today, I was just a little more brash about it. I just didn’t care what other people thought.

I actually seem to have much less of a concern about what the future may hold. If things don’t go well with our green card application, and we end up moving back to Canada sooner than planned, I’m much less worried about it. I used to worry about having to let go of my doctors – not that I’d want to – but now, I know that I’d be ok with going with the flow. Sure I wouldn’t be happy about it – I don’t want any external factors forcing my decisions, but I also know that I’d manage to do OK regardless of the circumstances.

Today, I’m 3 years older than when I was diagnosed. I’m looking forward to celebrating many more birthdays. Who knows where (or who) I’ll be at this time next year!

One thought on “Identity

  1. scottx5

    Good post and well timed for me. Just dropped out of two courses over essentially the identity issue. It seems identity in some strange way separates us from ourselves. Or worse, it separates us from theory by introducing experience as an interpretative tool when we have perfectly pleasing models to believe in. As the courses were one on Racism and another on Mindfulness, I hadn’t expected such rigid restrictions on the personal.

    One thing from the mindfulness course stuck with me. At some point a person has to stop defending the falsehood of other’s need for you to be other than you are.

    Oh, and happy birthday!!!!

    Reply

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