This month, as I marked the end of my first year with cancer, I lost my job. I had a job I loved— I loved the people I worked with, I loved the work… and I was good at it. And really- being a pediatrician was more than a job— I had dedicated my life to learning and teaching and caring for kids. But, I also loved other parts of what I did — like working with teams of people to problem solve, collaborate and grow. And, with the pandemic I’ve been unable to really close this chapter— it feels like in many ways I disappeared, and while I know there aren’t loose ends now, I wish I had had the chance to say goodbye more formally.
In my solo self-indulgent pity parties I think about the years of training that brought me to this point in my career and wonder if it was all for nothing? I graduated from medical school in 2008, and so had just about 10 years before I was diagnosed with cancer. I guess 10 years isn’t nothing… but, it continues to amaze me that all of that work pretty much evaporated on the day of my diagnosis.
Even though I am sad— I’ve still been trying to remind myself of how lucky I am to GET to spend this time with the kids, how I am able to BE HERE. But, honestly, in the back of my mind I’ve also kind of been waiting for something else — a new opportunity, or project to give me some other sense of purpose. But there is no end to this in sight— camps have been cancelled, and who knows what the next school year will bring. My reality has shifted 180 degrees from being a busy doctor, to now having a simultaneously slower but more grueling daily cadence of parenting/dishes/laundry that is punctuated by screen time, letting the dog out and sleep.
Last week I was telling my husband how empty this feels — how so much of what I used to enjoy is gone, including my independence, and how sad I am about that. Everything seemed worse last week because I also found out that my platelets had dropped, my chemo was going to be delayed again… I was overcome by an overwhelming sense of lack of control.
And, after hearing me… my husband told me something that kind of jolted me out of my funk. It wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to hear, but maybe what I needed… He said that right now— THIS — is as good as it will get. That in the future, we have bad days to come— whether it be from my tumor growing more, or something else— right NOW — while things aren’t perfect, they definitely could be worse. Everything could be worse.
Gah. While I am hopeful and optimistic that there ARE better days to come— I also know that he is right in the sense that being as happy as possible now is important. While it’s ok to be sad, I can’t let all this turn my days into garbage. These can be and should be good days— even when they aren’t what I would have imagined, even when I can’t plan ahead. Instead of working towards a far-off goal, I need to live in just this day, and make this day the best it can be.
Since our conversation, I’ve started to think of these days as a total new chapter. No longer looking backwards at my career but looking forward to whatever adventures await for my family and I. This picture of dinner on our porch gives me so much joy. I’m going to fill this chapter up with moments like this. I spent so much time in my youth working towards distant goals, attaining them, then doing it again. The truth now is that what I really want, and need— I already have. The time spent focusing on what “is missing” is over. Time to Enjoy the present!
Also- this Enlightened Brand Keto Popsicle is amazing. You’re welcome.