Originally posted at Young Adult Cancer Survivorship by Steve Pake on October 27, 2015
The month of October is a very busy and happy time for my wife and I. On the 11th, we officially marked the point of having spent over half of our lives together after 19 wonderful years. I had thought this huge milestone was coming next year, but then I realized that this was next year! My God, we finally made it, another fantastic summer is over, the leaves have been falling, and another year is passing by. On the 16th we celebrated our wedding anniversary, 11 years this year, and on the 27th I turned 38 years old. Turning 38 is strangely a big deal to me not because of the number, but because of how I feel about it. I was so distressed at times during my first few years after cancer, that I was convinced I was never going to make it to 40. Now, that milestone feels like it's right around the corner for the first time at 38. I have this renewed sense of optimism and hope about my future today that I hadn't felt last year when I turned 37, and it feels wonderful.
We took a trip somewhere for our anniversary, as we always have since cancer. It's been an important thing for us to do after all we've been through, and this year we landed at Virginia Beach, where I had proposed to my wife back in 2002. We had a fantastic time, hit some of our favorite spots, and it just felt good to be in a place that has a history in our love story. In the blink of an eye, so much time has passed both in life, and since I was diagnosed with cancer at 33. My wife and I have really enjoyed life and each other since our cancer fight. Nothing is taken for granted anymore. There have been countless trips to here and there, and so much love, laughter, and joy along the way. We've made so many great memories from all of our adventures together, and have made some truly wonderful friends for life along the way. A whole lot of LIVING has been done in these past few years, but most don't know and could never see just how much I'd also been struggling on the inside with so much. In the midst of such wonderful times after cancer, my mind, body, and spiritual self were all still raw and hurting, and in great need of healing.
It took years, but a rigorous exercise regimen that I focused on relentlessly finally forced my body into the full recovery that I enjoy today. I feel decades younger today than I have in the past few years. Running, writing, and mindful mediation gave me the outlets that I needed to help harness such powerful Scorpio emotions after cancer that I simply wasn't prepared to handle at all, and some wonderful mentors helped to guide me along the way.
I had also been very torn and conflicted spiritually. Having cancer as a young adult makes us fear that our lives are on a short clock. We feel rushed to try to accomplish whatever it is we were meant to accomplish in our lives, but I didn't really know who I was, what I believed in, nor what I was put here to do. I found the way to get in touch with my true spiritual self, found my purpose in this world, and a system of beliefs that I could truly believe in with all of my heart and soul. This brought me tremendous comfort, and helped to ease my mind and soothe my soul.
I also learned the importance of unconditional self-love, and how to forgive for the first time in my life. A few people had hurt me so badly during this journey that I'd wanted to destroy them, and could have. The passage of time and life has taught me that even these people had served a higher purpose in my life, and I now feel nothing but the deepest of gratitude towards them, even if some may never know, nor understand why or how. Everything happens for a reason. Life can be so complicated and confusing, but if you look for meaning you'll find it.
The beautiful beach sunrise that I enjoyed was so symbolic of my life after cancer for these past few years. From that of complete darkness and feeling so hopeless, to then progressing so slowly with the smallest rays of hope, life after cancer has blossomed over the years into something truly beautiful and breathtaking. Cancer could have destroyed my marriage, but it didn't. We've only grown closer, more appreciative, and more in love with each other over the years. Cancer and the toxic treatments needed to fight it nearly destroyed my body, but I fought back hard for years, and can do things today that I couldn't even do before cancer. Cancer tried to destroy my mind with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress, but I found healthy and productive outlets, methods of coping, and the right people that could help carry me along. Cancer tried to destroy me spiritually, but I still found my path forward. Whatever cancer has thrown my way, I've overcome.
Tears fell, and an incredible feeling of peace and oneness swept over me, as I took it all in and realized just how far I'd come. How many times had I so painfully burned myself to the ground in order to keep evolving, and how many times would I have to do so again? For a time it felt like forever, but today the answer is no more. I've healed all of me, mind, body, and spirit. I've grown and evolved so much, and my long struggles after cancer are over. I've finally mastered these rough seas, and have never felt better about life than I do today.
Life really has moved on after cancer.
Cross-posted at StevePake.com