The new bucket list

“for whatever we lose (like a you or a me),

it’s always our self we find in the sea.” — ee cummings

I love ee cummings. While I’m usually quite the stickler for adherence to the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, I’ve always loved that cummings eschewed the rules and let the words and his thoughts flow unbridled.

He’s quite right about finding our selves at the sea. Not finding ourselves, but our selves. See the difference? Actually, it’s quite hard to see; it’s more something you feel.

Losing your self in the morass that is a cancer battle is fraught with peril. Having a potentially fatal disease changes you. It messes with your mind, shakes your sense of security, and makes you question the future. Having a potentially fatal disease at a young-ish age with young kids to raise really changes you.

My blogfriend and fellow cancerchick Michelle writes about this change. She writes of fear, of wishing for a return to the carefree, pre-cancer life. She mentions fear. The fear of recurrence. The fear of not being here to witness the millions of little things, seemingly insignificant, yet the essence of what creates our life.

See, for a cancer patient, the fear is always there. It resides deep in the “self” that we wish to find in the sea. Despite best efforts to be brave, move forward, and face the unpleasantness that is life with cancer, the fear is there. Sometimes just below the surface, like a homemade marinara sauce bubbling fragrantly and yummy on the stove. Sometimes right on the surface, as evident and painful as a sunburn the first day on the beach. Fear becomes the new normal. Michelle writes of the “new” normal:

“My new normal, I suppose [is] living each moment with equal parts gratitude, for experiencing it and really soaking it in now, and fear, that it may be over too soon.”

Hear, hear. Well said, Michelle.

Another blogfriend, Lauren, writes similarly.  Because she is 5 years out from diagnosis while Michelle and I are more recent arrivals to cancerland, Lauren writes not of the ever-present fear but of the urgency to experience all the things we fear we might not be here to experience. The bucket list takes on a whole new priority post-cancer.

Says Lauren:

“It dawned on me that cancer survivors also have a different bucket list. One that isn’t the places we want to go, or what we want to buy or learn to do, but one comprised of the things we want to live long enough to experience and see come to pass.”

Yes, that’s true. While there are places I want to see and plenty of things I want to do, I know now, post-cancer, that there’s a difference. Everything is different post-cancer. I’m still looking for that new normal, and my bucket list changes somewhat, but one thing remains constant: while I’m still scared, there’s still plenty that I want to see come to pass.

For now, I’m enjoying the ocean breezes, the sound of the surf, and the sunset over the water, knowing that with each new day, there’s plenty to see. 

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3 Comments on “The new bucket list”

  1. People that haven’t had cancer often find it difficult to understand our fears. They think we should be so excited to move on with life after treatment, but our minds don’t work that way. Fear can be as much the enemy as cancer itself. My blog post this week deals with fear and finding a bridge between cancer treatment and our new normal, yet one more example that recurrence has ahold of all of us in one way or another.

    XOXOXO,
    Brenda

  2. Oh Nancy, thank you so much for including me. Trust me, it all unfolds as it should with the passage of time and yes, there was a huge clip at first a life lived almost too large, and then balance came with time.

    You and I are such kindred spirits, the ee cummings quote i just used in barnacle girl, and yes the sea is cleansing and helps us find us again for sure. Love your posts as always…

    Lauren

  3. Mandi says:

    Until a cancer diagnosis I never thought too hard about my bucket list, but lately I have been thinking about it more, and putting it down in words so that I make the effort to complete them. Life seems a bit more about living, but I haven’t quite had the opportunity to try to start to live it again just yet.


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