One of the things I like about my camera, is that I don’t have to change lenses. It is a point-and-shoot, not a fancy camera. I find that I take the best photos when I am actually carrying a camera. This sounds silly but my little point-and-shoot fits into my purse as well as into the zippered pocket of my hiking shirt. (Yes, there is such a thing and I wear it over a t-shirt or around my waist.)
My camera has one lens and because of this it is much lighter. But I can’t see as much with it.
In my daily life, I feel that I am constantly changing lenses, the way I see the world. Sometimes, it changes so quickly that I can’t get a good view of anything, just constant changes, blurs of different colors and no definite shapes. These are very difficult days, among the most difficult. It is on these days that I feel frozen for anywhere from a few minutes to a day or two.
I added a cancer lens to my bag a couple of years back. Before the diagnosis, it was a general purpose lens, called, “bad medical stuff that is unlikely to happen but I get it checked out just in case”. And yes, I knew about the one out of eight figure for breast cancer in U.S. women. That’s still the minority and that’s a lifetime incidence, too. The percentage of cancer diagnosed at age 46 is considerably lower.
Then I found myself at age 46, diagnosed with breast cancer and having what would be revealed as four small invasive tumors, of low grade, meaning that tests estimated them to be relatively slow growing.
The cancer lens puts cancer at the center of view when it needs to be there. For me, it was the time of active treatment, which also coincided with continued assessment through scans and pathology reports, the latter occurring after each of my three cancer surgeries.
Now I am considered a “survivor” and my cancer lens keeps the possibility of cancer in the periphery. I have been told that I have excellent peripheral vision, both literally and figuratively.
My energy continues to return. There are so many legitimate reasons that reduce the energy of a breast cancer patient, chemo, oral medications, repeated surgeries, stress, working to make loved ones feel better, etc.
The cancer lens is also one of those things that can wear us down. Thinking about cancer, every day, even if only for a moment. I see many women worn down by the fatigue of cancer and I believe that this is a very real part of the burden.
The cancer lens can also bring things into finer focus, though. The preciousness of life, the motivation to treasure moments and to appreciate them. This is where people get into this whole, “cancer is a gift” thing. And yes, I agree that it is not a gift. But having a life threatening illness forced my hand to cope with my life and take care of myself better. The way I have dealt with cancer, by and large, has been a gift I have given to myself.
This week, I’ve had a hard time with anxiety, despite the fact that I am on vacation. I am somewhat disappointed with myself, to be totally truthful, but I am working toward acceptance of the fact that I am a very anxious woman at times and this is one of the times, right before the beginning of a near school year and my daughter’s birthday, when the business of my life can overwhelm me.
My friend, Nancy, also a psychologist and a breast cancer survivor, spent a few hours together earlier this week. We spoke of our friendship. Nancy remarked that even though I have dealt with some heavy problems as a parent and a person, she does not worry about me the way she might worry about her other friends. I actually feel the same way about her. Nancy is very smart, very kind, and very real. She is a very clear thinker. Most of the time, I think I think very clearly, too.
Clarity is a powerful tool. Clarity means seeing things head on, the possibilities and the certainties. It is at times frightening, at other times just the tool needed to dig through a very deep problem, and at other times, absolutely liberating.
I am real. Sometimes that is hard for people, including me.