Two Years Cancer-Free: Learning to Let it Go

In my imperfect home, surrounded by friends, I celebrated my two-year cancer survivor anniversary [she does the happy dance]! I feel so blessed and thankful for every day I am cancer-free. Two years under my belt; eight more to go. No complaints, but it sure feels a hell of a lot longer than two years since this journey began. I can’t say whether it is due to the stress, or because I took the living-of-my-life up a notch and am just plain wearing myself out. I suspect it is a little of both. Either way, the crow’s-feet and gray hairs are multiplying like a rabbit colony, but that’s all right with me.

After the initial shock, I armed myself with a determination that could not be matched. I was riding a high from my sheer will to expel this disease from my body, and that was actually a good thing. It jump-started a whole new attitude, an exercise routine, and a healthy diet. Every day I woke up was a day for which I was thankful. I saw beauty everywhere. I used the exclamation point excessively. Indeed, the “!” was out of control.

At one year cancer-free, I was still feeling that high. I hope by then I had backed off the over-zealous punctuation, but I’m afraid to look. My new, positive attitude was intact, and I was sticking to the healthy diet. I was slacking on the exercise (my couch potato ways), but I never gave it up completely–I walked the dog daily, occasionally did yoga or a few jumping jacks in my living room, and did a few 5K races. And, as if I weren’t OCD enough, I was decluttering and organizing the hell out of my condo. The purging of possessions was, and still is, therapy for me. Perhaps all the extraneous stuff I’ve been tossing is representative of the nasty cancer cells I so badly want out of my body. Hmm.

At two years cancer-free, I feel like I am falling into my stride for the long haul. I sprinted for two years; it’s time to settle into my groove and see this thing through. I am painfully aware that the rug could be pulled from under me at any moment, and every little ache and pain is quickly submitted to my physician for thorough examination, but I have maintained my good attitude. During the first year, I operated with panic-driven positivity and put into play all of the tangible strategies I could (surgery, radiation, diet, exercise, non-toxic products). Going into year three, in addition to the tangible strategies, I am also becoming focused on my state of mind, which is a little more than having a positive attitude.

While I’m keeping up the good ‘tude pretty well, I am also dabbling in the art of non-perfectionism. Non-perfectionism. For those of you who know me personally–GASP! Right?

Before you say there ain’t no way, listen to this. I hosted a little soiree at my home last weekend to celebrate my cancerversary. Remember when I said in this post that I don’t entertain often because I can’t seem to ever get my home perfect enough to have people over? And, if I’m being honest, because I procrastinate until the idea goes out of style anyway. Well, in addition to the usual frenzied people-are-coming-over cleaning, I had my pre-party punch list that I worked on for three weeks, some of which did not get done:

Punch List

  • paint door
  • paint entry way
  • paint hallway
  • install rack for scarves in hallway
  • caulk around HVAC vent and paint vent
  • measure, order, and install piece of granite along pantry
  • purchase screen door & hire someone to install
  • purchase & hang string lights on deck (3 trips to the store for the right extension cord)
  • plant flowers on deck
  • purchase and install hanging shelf in powder room
  • remove door from kitchen cabinet and paint interior
  • clean carpet
  • hang floating shelves in living room
  • hang guitar hanger in living room (for ukulele)
Clear string lights on patio at night
The lights on the deck are dreamy

I was okay with not completing the list, but the morning of the party, pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I’ll spare you the details, but my dog got sick (voluminously so). All of my bedding had to be washed. There was an issue with the making of the deviled eggs. And then there was the matter of the handyman who was running late, and who arrived in time to show me the door I purchased was defective. I told him not to worry, I’m a whole new person who is not a perfectionist and to install the door anyway–a little bit of crooked won’t bother me. But the door was not just un-square, it was warped. Simply put, the screen door could not serve it’s intended purpose of keeping the bugs out. Did I mention this is the day of the party?

I cleaned up the dog mess; I paid the gentleman for installing the door, and we agreed to deal with replacing it another day because it clearly could not be remedied before the party; and I prepared as many deviled eggs as God would allow. It turned out that was exactly the number of guests I was expecting. Yep, I had one egg per guest to offer (along with lots of other food). Of course, in the midst of all this I did phone a friend to vent a little, but I wasn’t losing my mind. I was okay. It was just a “can you believe this?” call. And you know what? The party was lovely. Nobody cared that I had over-purged my glassware and some were drinking Prosecco from whiskey glasses, and nobody stormed out in disgust because my screen door was jacked.

One question that came up a couple of times at my little celebration was whether I got another tattoo. I got my first one in honor of my one-year survivor anniversary (see that post here), and some folks thought I might make that an annual event. Look at that punch list. When in the world would I have time to get another tattoo?

Ha! (emphasis on the exclamation point)