I cried to my hubby the other night that I did not want to become “The Cancer Patient”…to which he responded “And I don’t want to be “The Cancer Patient’s Spouse”. I’m so thankful that he GETS it. It’s easy to look at us now and only see the diagnosis and the prognosis. Don’t feel guilty. I do it to myself! I fight daily not to let cancer become the sole lens through which I view myself. It makes me incredibly angry. It makes me incredibly discouraged. My strength and mobility…or the lack thereof…should not define me. And yet I catch myself wondering who I am if I can’t train for triathlon, or cook dinner for my family or clean my own house. If I can’t go to work or the grocery store or youth group. If I can’t DO then WHO am I?
You’ve probably seen the inspirational memes stating “You are not a human doing, you are a human being” touting that our worth is not found in what we DO but who we ARE. That’s all nice and pretty and true. The more dominant truth is that’s not how we operate. It’s not how our society operates. We’re the only species that anguishes over our purpose. My cat sleeps in her cat tree all day. She’s not worried about productivity. Our dog is secure in her role to watch over and protect us but she does not agonize over if she’s doing enough or is pursuing the “right” purpose.
The fact is, I’m the same person I’ve always been. I’m still farm animal obsessed. I still laugh at our favorite comedians and animal fail videos. I still want to hear about my friends’ days…good and bad. About their triumphs and their struggles. I still want to read race reports and hear about funny training stories. I still want to be part of my youth group girls’ lives. I still love chocolate and cheesecake and good food and time with friends. I’m still a Marvel girl and my favorite genre of book is still fantasy. I’m still all the things God created me to be. I just can’t DO. Maybe that will change with treatment but if it doesn’t, I am still ME. And if it does, I’m starting to examine what is worth adding back in and what is unnecessary filler.
When I was a kid, I would have identified as a “book nerd”. If I could tell my kid self that one day I would be required to sit still 24/7 but would have practically any book ever written at my fingertips, my kid self would have been ecstatic. My kid self was not concerned with productivity or purpose. Maybe I’m coming full circle even though I still wrestle with the concept of “wasting” time. Sometimes I sit and stare out at my backyard for an hour. I watched a bird build a nest this morning. I’ve never just sat and marveled at that feat of nature. Still – I was uneasy with the idea that I did not DO anything. But I also figure God could have taken me suddenly. I have never been guaranteed another day. None of us have. And yet, here we are. I don’t know what that means except that we do have a purpose. Even if you can’t go and do, you have a purpose. You are worthwhile. Jesus said the two most important things are to “love God” and “love people”. We don’t have to be strong or mobile to do that.
So. I’m not just “The Cancer Patient”. I am still ME. My husband is still HIM. Please fight past the ease of reducing us to a diagnosis. And remember not to limit your identity to what you can do either.