I was quite an awkward 11 and 12 year-old, as many girls are during those ages. I was and I still am very close to my mom and I remember talking to her about that stage of not being a young child but not quite being a teenager. Mom had suitable song lyrics for this and sometimes responded by singing, “Too young for boys, too old for toys, I’m just an in-between.”

“In between” is a phrase that has been popping into my mind frequently. I feel like an “in-between” as a cancer patient.

Actually, when I really think about it, I’ve felt like an “in-between” during this whole process and I see my friends going through the same thing. I remember in the early days of breast cancer I was shuttled back and forth between assessment and treatment. And even some of the treatment, that is surgery, was also used for assessment. There are blurry lines. It is a systematic process but there are many data gathering and decision points.

Other than my tamoxifen and Lupron shots, I am not in active cancer treatment. My oncology appointments are more spread out. I don’t even see my surgeon any more, I just see the nurse practitioner in the surgery office who works with “survivors”, the ultimate “in-between” status. Actually, there’s another in-between because if I am to need to have a breast cancer surgeon again, I need to see someone else. Dr. Wonderful not only “broke up” with me for being too healthy, he also retired from clinical practice, just last week. He is remaining at my cancer center doing research and in a leadership position regarding improving patient care. At least I can still send him a Christmas card later this year. He will not have moved back home yet. (He is Canadian, from Toronto, and I’ve always figured that he and his wife will move back to be with their sons and grandchildren.)

My current “in-between” balancing act is juggling my responsibilities. Okay, this is not a new balancing act as I have done it throughout my entire experience with cancer. However, as my energy is increasing, I have been able to work more. During 2013 my income, after deducting my expenses, was 50% of what it was pre-cancer. 2014 will not be a year like 2011 but it will be a much better year. I can see myself getting out of debt. My husband and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversaries along with our 50th birthdays in 2015. We would like to take a trip to Turkey along with our daughter, to celebrate. We have a lot of saving to do if we are going to be able to take that trip. I certainly can’t contribute to that kind of expense without getting out of debt.

I am feeling the tug of responsibility to my friends, especially my friends in the breast cancer community. I know that I am not as available for communications as I once was. Some of my friends I know only through online conversations. I don’t like to distinguish them from IRL (in real life) friends because all of my friends are real life friends. Great distances as well as time differences can make communication difficult, though. And further, I confess that I am less likely to ask, “how are you” to friends who are having emotionally and physically difficult times. I don’t like to ask that question unless I am prepared to respond with the kind of time someone needs if the answer is not, “I’m fine, thank you. And you?”  I am frequently pulled away to other responsibilities at home and at work. I don’t want to do a half-assed job of supporting my friends. I’ve had too many times in my life when a friend has asked “How are you?” during a hard spot in my life and my eyes tear up with the anticipation that I will be able to share my burdon with someone only to find out that the friend really does not have the time or mental energy just right then to tend to me.

I am also worried about losing my connection with the breast cancer community. I write frequently, but when I am really busy, I have fewer ideas. I don’t want my ideas to dry up and then the social connections to dry up as well.

Most of all, I am worried about losing my connection to the opportunity (not “gift”, mind you) breast cancer and my emotional recovery have given me to truly cherish life. I want to be connected to and mindful of the full richness of life.

I suspect I will work my way through this. I also suspect that I will not run out of things to communicate, even if not through blogging. And as far as blogging goes, I think I still have much to write here on this page. But I also want to respect and take note of the anxiety and fatigue I’ve been feeling lately. The anxiety is of the “lurking in the shadows” variety and not the spinning top anxiety I get when I go into overdrive.

Maybe the “new normal” that is talked about is actually a radical acceptance that life is always in-between.