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I did it! Now what?

ScanTreatment ended at the turn of the year and that I can officially claim REMISSION.  YES!!! My energy is slowly returning, just enough to get to the mountain and into the garden and gently on my mat.  I am beyond grateful that I am able to participate in my children’s lives by attending soccer games and concerts, to be able to take them to the park and movies and play with them for hours as opposed to the occasional minutes during treatment months.  I am even grateful to have the energy to clean the house…who would have thought I missed folding laundry, or turning the compost or cleaning the chicken crap.  But I did, I missed it all.  I can drive….most days.  I am starting to eat again and just recently without the taste of chemicals…ohhh food such a privileged bounty! I have gained 5 pounds! Yes, I am happy to be gaining weight because it means I am getting healthier, stronger, more full of life! I’d gain 100 pounds if it gave me more time on this planet.  I am able to go to tea with friends and though I might not be able to poignantly manage a conversation quite yet, to share presence with loved ones is priceless.   I am able to teach, in moderation, and with a heightened sense of tenderness for the students and myself.  I am getting back to seeing a handful of clients, and am honored to be a facilitator in their processes of healing.  Healing others helps me heal and it is a most beautiful exchange.

In these respects, my life seems to be getting ‘back to normal’, the normal I had been wanting so desperately.  But beneath the surface of the everyday, there still dwells an unsettling pain and awareness and the fact that nothing will ever really be ‘back to normal’.  Despite the termination of treatments, I am still experiencing the residual side effects of the medicine and it can take months for it to completely clear from my body, a year or two, or longer to find overall balance (if even complete balance can be restored).  The body aches, pains and chronic fatigue are, at times, paralyzing.  My brain chemistry is a wicked mess.  Certain parts of my brain are overactive, others are absent and my neural networking and connections aren’t wiring correctly.  My hormones, thyroid and hypothalamus are quite confused.  The chemical imbalances have left me subject to intense disorientation, disconnection from reality and mood disorders.  I have struggled with depression throughout my life, but nothing quite like this.  Time will likely mend most of the mess, so for now it is about patience and self-compassion.

The process of staying in remission requires rigorous monitoring and prevention, not mention a good sense of humor and an unshakable gratitude.  My weeks are filled with appointments every day: blood work, Oncology, Naturopath, lymphatic drainage, acupuncture, hydro colon therapy, vitamin drips, and dermatologist, Obgyns, and neuropsychologists.  Every day I take 47 pills, supplements, and medications, my diet consists of all ‘cancer prevention’ foods, and my love affair with chocolate, sugars, and burgers has come to a dramatic breakup.  This is not a complaint as much as statement of fact.  I consider myself so blessed to be able to have so many health care and alternative treatment options, considering the amount of people around the world who don’t have any options at all.   I owe this to the community, because without your help and contributions I would not have such thorough after-care.  Thank you will never be enough!

Although my rational, positive-psychology-yogi-self knows better, my mind often gets clouded with the fear of cancer, “I have to keep it gone; I have to keep the cancer gone, it cannot come back.  What if it comes back??  What will happen to my kids, what will their new mother be like, how can anyone possibly love them like me?  It can’t come back!! Wait, what is that bump in my breast, that knot on my head, are they new tumors… what is that sharp pain, why can’t I breathe…is it cancer?” Insert extreme panic attack, followed by crying episode, followed by extreme panic attack, followed by a rational grip that ‘what if’s’ are a fucking waist of time.  I am constantly reminded that cancer is now a huge part of my life, whether patient or survivor.  I am accepting it, and though it is incredibly difficult, it is my new, albeit temporary, normal and I am coming to peace with it.

Some days I look in the mirror and it feels like I’ve aged 10 years in 7 months, both externally and internally, a stranger with wrinkled brow, dark eyes, tired bones, heavy heart and tangled soul.  My hands show sings of a hard life as lines of chaos are etched into my palms.  Other days I look in the mirror and feel more beautiful than ever before, aged from life’s experience, palms wise and filled with good fortune.   As I stare into my reflection, I recognize the power of perception and I am curious how I will redefine my place in the world.  Cancer has changed me, as it should.  Death has danced around me, as it does all beings, and my entire sight of life has shifted mountains…for the better.  The way I experience living is somehow simultaneously enhanced and yet somehow disconnected….sensitivity is increased, while non attachment and seeing past the bullshit are considered understatements.  I relate to myself, the world and people very differently.  Different doesn’t mean bad, often times it is quite refreshing to see with new eyes, seeing more clearly what is true and real.  Different just means that I am building back up from a new ground, a foreign landscape, and like all the stunning cultures of the world, I am shaping my life with new language, expression and meaning.

I have realized that through the sudden diagnosis, immediate surgeries, and aggressive treatment I was so consumed with the physical and just surviving that I was not able to really process the emotional and mental aspects.  It is just in recent weeks that I am diving into these swamps of post cancer self-realization…trusting there are lotus flowers within the muck waiting to be born.

Here is the reality; we are all in a state of change and evolution.  Life is constantly shifting in and out of stages and circumstances.  The ride will be messy and bumpy and painful, but it is also extraordinary, magnificent and soulfully revealing.  Whatever your journey, I invite you to accept uncertainty, let go of what you think is ‘normal’, pay attention to the process and learn to embody the lessons with your own unique authenticity and purpose.

As I recently said to my dear friend, Ilene, embracing the process is the willingness to go deep down and marry the darkness, to dance with uncertainty, to love the bitter-sweet, to stand in untamed power….on new ground shaking the dust from our weathered journey and stepping forward yet again to be bold, to be born….a Self never quite the same, we reach for our pallets and paint the colors of our beautifully burdened souls upon a new canvas of life. I love you, and I will see you in the circle.

Robin Afinowich










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2 Responses to “I did it! Now what?”

  1. Lillian February 25, 2014 3:28 am #

    I love you, Robin. You are such an inspirational person and knowing your humbleness and acceptance, knowing that you will simply say “I had to do it”, and knowing your steely sense of strength and willpower – I am still saying that you are awesome and amazing. This post, like many, brought tears to my eyes — but these tears are full of happy and love and gladness for the wonderful news. It’s hard for me to put into words how your words have touched me – you have a way with words that I do not – but your path has brought you to where exactly you are meant to be (something that you taught me). I am so thankful that your path has brought you to this place where you are beginning to taste anew and enjoy so many “simple pleasures”, because you are one to treasure those and “go with the flow” – even the nasty 47 pills and countless appointments. So much love. So. much.

  2. Donna Bronski February 25, 2014 5:17 am #

    Robin: this is beautiful. I wish you continued healing and peace.

    May I share your thoughts with another friend who is just starting down this path?

    Either way, I am happy for your remission and increasing strength.

    your former student, Donna Bronski

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