Maybe this is a bit of a confession in regards to my failings or weaknesses, but here goes.

I am a tough women. I have a very high pain threshold. I asked for my morphine PCA to be discontinued within 24 hours of my big surgery as I didn’t need narcotics (I did receive Toradol, though, a great pain reliever). I wore street cloths in the hospital within 48 hours of my surgery, and would only use my hospital bed to sleep at night, I walked the halls almost all day every day. I was discharged in 6 days on only ibuprofen. I walked for 3 miles on the streets of New York City 8 days after my surgery. I was driving my car and grocery shopping less than two weeks after my big surgery. I drove myself to and from chemo, sometimes I even rode my bicycle the 5 miles to and from chemotherapy. I did athletic training while on chemo to prepare to do a century bicycle tour. I wasn’t going to let cancer beat me, I wasn’t going to let cancer win. I was tough.

Physically, anyway.

I always thought I was very tough mentally and emotionally too, but I have to say, the emotional and mental recovery from cancer diagnosis and treatment has been a long one.

After cancer, at first I couldn’t play my piano. I’d sit in front of it and my hands wouldn’t move. I don’t know why, but I hear the same thing happens sometimes to other musicians in times of tragedy. I lost interest in gardening and in my bird sanctuary, I lost interest in spring cleaning. Not sure why, I just did. I recovered my ability to play piano after a short while, but I quit celebrating and participating in springtime. Springtime activities to me represented a commitment to the future, and for several years I didn’t commit to more than one day at a time. I didn’t want to commit to the responsibility of keeping bird feeders filled, to watering and caring for plants, to weeding gardens. I couldn’t maintain garden life and bird life any more, I wasn’t sure if I could even maintain my own life.

This year is kind of a landmark for me though…for the first time since diagnosis, I want to really invest in springtime. I want to plant gardens again, set up my bird scanctuary again, buy houseplants. I spent a lot of money on gardening supplies and bird feeders last night.

I can finally plan for and enjoy a potential future, I think because it doesn’t need to be promised for me to feel fulfilled. I feel much less fear. I’ve finally lost my fear of dying, and that’s a milestone that is so liberating. Death no longer represents an ending to me, just another transition. Life is, after all, transitions. And this year I want to participate in and celebrate the transition that is spring, not as a commitment, but as a promise, as a hope, as an example of beauty emerging from the dark and cold.

My newfound normal is actually very liberating. But I was slow in getting here, maybe?

The emotional recovery has been a long one and is probably still not over. But I like my new normal better than my old normal. Like the Monarchs, in the spring I can see life coming from death, new coming from old, large coming from small, growth from nothingness. Springtime is full of those reminders that life comes from death, that large things come from small beginnings. I have a hope for a future is unending now. Spring will help me celebrate my new perspective this year.