Reclaiming My Normal

I have declared 2023 as the year I will reclaim my normal. In 2019 I was diagnosed with what should have been terminal bladder cancer. 2020 brought about COVID. 2021 was the strangest time of being kind of done with COVID and may be done with treatment. 2022 was a blur of trying to adjust to a new job, and the title of "cancer-free."

After everything I've been through, I'm hesitant to declare a year as my year, but I have a good feeling about 2023, and I'm ready to take back the things that have been paused, or I thought, taken by my cancer.

I have created 3 goals for myself, and I'm looking forward to conquering each.

Goal 1, go hiking

I've gone on several short hikes since my diagnosis, but I've been nervous about longer, more challenging trails.

How will I manage my ostomy? Am I physically strong enough to hike a mountain again? Well, I just couldn't take the uncertainty holding me back anymore.

I created a list of hikes I want to accomplish this year, and now I have 15 hikes planned! My longest and most difficult will culminate with a 3-day hike and camp trip on a section of the Appalachian Trail I completed during my freshman year of college.

Goal 2, get back on the dance floor

I can't say cancer put a pause on my dancing days. I wholeheartedly blame that on leaving my coaching career to take on an "adult" job that paid enough for me to afford daily living expenses. I always wanted to get back into dance classes, but just when I made up my mind, I got sick, and COVID shut everything down.

This year I didn't let myself hesitate, and I not only signed up for a session of ballroom dance lessons but paid in full as well. Can't back out now.

I love to dance, and my years as a professional and as a teacher have never left my bones. I'm starting with ballroom lessons and hope to work up my confidence and stamina to take more challenging classes and maybe even strap on my ballet shoes once more.

Dance has always been my first love, and I just can't let an ostomy or "cancer" hold me back anymore.

Goal 3, travel more

I have always loved to explore new places. Living with an ostomy has made me incredibly cautious about travel.

Will there be a bathroom nearby? Will TSA give me grief about my ostomy? What if my bag fails while I'm on a plane? I've let my ostomy hold me back from traveling, which is disappointing now that I've found myself in a place where I'm not hindered as much financially or due to my work schedule.

This year I'm truly jumping into the deep end by going on my first cruise post-diagnosis. I'll have to fly, be at sea for a week and navigate 3 different countries, all with my ostomy.

It is still a little scary as we get closer to our sailing date, but I am determined to be on a warm tropical island with my ostomy.

Coming out of pause

Cancer has a way of pushing pause on so much of our lives, and if you find yourself with an ostomy as well, it can seem like there will never be time to get back to living. But I think it is worth pushing ourselves to be brave and reclaim as much of our "normal" as possible.

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