2 Years On
It’s hard to believe that time has flown by when the days feel like eons. Today marks the two-year anniversary since I received the call informing me I had breast cancer. It’s surreal to think about how far I’ve come since then. When I was diagnosed, I was on the brink of leaving San Francisco to start grad school in Chicago. I had so many exciting plans in mind - trying out living on my own, getting a cat, experimenting with midwest life again. I wanted to embrace the freedom and experimentation that your 20s are supposed to be about – trying things, testing out different lifestyles and finding your own path.
Instead, my 20s were filled with pandemic-induced isolation, chemotherapy sessions, and undeniable physical changes from life-altering surgeries. It wasn’t exactly the wild and carefree adventure I had envisioned.
Still, without the opportunity to try anything crazy or go on insane journeys for most of my 20s thus far, I have been able to grow and learn so much about myself. I’ve discovered hobbies beyond binge-watching TV (although that’s still pretty fun). I’ve been able to read more books over the last two and a half years than I read over the previous five. I’ve actually been doing my homework in grad school (which would shock pretty much every teacher or professor I had before). I’ve become more secure, independent, and reliable. I’ve learned how to admit when I’m wrong and when I’m sorry. Best of all, I can see beauty in the world so much more easily than I ever could before.
When I was diagnosed, I was doing pretty well. I had had some pretty dark moments in my life before then, which I handled less than gracefully. In a sense, I was diagnosed at the perfect moment. Any earlier, and I might have completely lost my way. But at 24, I was already down a path that made me strong and sensible. I was scared and I was sad, but I wasn’t lost. I knew who I could lean on and I knew how to navigate my resources. I knew I was going to be okay, emotionally if not physically. But I was still just 24.
Since diagnosis and since treatment, I have grown and experienced so much, despite the hardships. I’m still growing (and I expect to be until my dying day), but I can recognize how much I’ve improved so far. I appreciate small things. I know what I value. I try to be grateful as much as possible. I still get upset about dumb things and I still fall victim to people-pleasing sometimes. But I’ve realized what I want from my life: I want to love it as it is, not how I want it to be next month, next year. And knowing that is a game-changer.
Last year, for about 5 months I did a “1 Second Every Day”, which encouraged me to look for romance or meaning for a moment each day. It got away from me during my first year at grad school, but I’m doing it again this summer. If the cancer or the pandemic taught me anything, it’s that life will pass you by if you don’t appreciate it. You don’t know when time will show its strength against your mind and body, so living in the present is the best thing you can do.
I’m writing all of this to say that: I’m doing well. I’m not perfect. There are parts of my past that still sting, and probably always will. But I’ve been able to live my life, change my mind and grow my experiences, and that’s everything I ever hoped for. I’m not grateful for getting cancer - I believe I could have ended up in this place even without that particular ordeal. However, I am grateful that I’ve been able to find joy despite it (and a lot of joy, at that).
I’m putting my 1 second video from last summer here because it makes me so happy to watch over, and I feel like it shows a bit of what I’m trying to express in this blog post. Looking forward to posting this summer’s video as well!