Nine years ago – to the day – I finished chemo treatments for stage 3 tongue cancer. I still had a week of radiation treatments left. It saved my life but also completely changed my path many times over.
Grateful the treatments worked for me, but I struggle still with the trauma of that experience. Grateful I still have a lot of functionality and speech, and resentful of the chronic pain, cognitive issues, fatigue and dental issues. I’m angry about the loss of functionality and ability to work. I miss having a career and the energy to do stuff with my kids or friends whenever I want, but yet I’m grateful to now be home with my kids and be able to support them through such an important time in life. I’m grateful for supporting and loving friends. I’m grateful for an amazing team of doctors, nurses and medical staff committed to helping me have the best quality of life possible. I’m grateful for the people I’ve known and lost who taught me so much about how to survive and live again – Aubrey Bean, Jason McNamee and Sarah Pearl. I’m grateful for my family and friends who stood with me in sickness then and now, and are unwavering in their support and love for me – Kathleen Montemarano Schrader, Mary Montemarano, Matthew Goodmanson, Ann Goodmanson, Chad Bitzer, Meri Bitzer, Jenna K VS, Jamie Tallent, and Brian Tallent.
And I’m grateful to myself for all the emotional work I’ve done and continue to do to love myself, be kind to myself, make it through the hard times, and evolve.
Nothing in life is black and white, just good or just bad. I’m not able to just say, “Yay, I’m a survivor.” It’s so much more complicated than that. I’m still figuring it all out, healing from the trauma, and relearning how to enjoy life. I’ve come so far, but I know I still have a ways to go.