For my birthday, my mom's sister and her family were able to drive down from New York to be with us for the weekend. I am very close with my cousin, Julia, and was so happy to spend some time with her that weekend. The most special thing of all was that, when it came time to open my birthday gifts, Julia told me she had picked out their family's gift to me all by herself. When I opened it, I was so excited and so happy to see what it was. Julia had picked out a simple, silver Alex&Ani bracelet with the "Path of Life" charm. The charm on the bracelet says "Knowledge, Motivation, and Strength" and on the back of it there is a path design that twists and turns. I don't think such a message could have come to me at a better time.
Having recently graduated college and moved to an entirely different city surrounded by completely new people, I was enjoying the excitement of all the new things. However, I was also trying to figure out what part of my identity in this new place I would want "cancer survivor" to be.
I was feeling so healthy, so happy, and so free in this new place during those first weeks here. I got caught up in all of the new things and I guess I have not posted here in a long time because, for the first time in a long time, I did not have to think about my cancer at all for over 2 months. I was not involved in any activities related to cancer. I was not around any people that knew I had cancer. I felt I had developed enough other aspects of my identity that I didn't need to disclose that as a part of my identity right away. And that felt good for a little while I think.
But, I have missed something these past 2 months and I couldn't figure out what it was. Looking at Julia's bracelet, I realized it was because of those twisting, turning experiences 7 years ago that I am where I am now. It is because of those experiences that I was driven down the path I am on. Last week, I gave my boyfriend (who I met soon after moving to Miami), a copy of my book. I felt that it was important for me to share with him those experiences that have shaped me into who I am and what I want to do with my life.
It is strange to me how I continue to learn and realize new things about myself and my experiences with cancer as I get older. Now, as a young adult, I think about my cancer experiences in a very different way than I did when I first started this blog. I am realizing how challenging it can be for young adult cancer survivors to navigate the world in the same way as their healthy peers. When you move to a new place, make new friends, date, etc., it is challenging to know if, when, and how to share your cancer experiences with others. For some, you may feel like you don't want to share any of it, and you may feel like it has no part in your identity. For others, you may feel it is a big part of your identity. You may have no long-term effects from treatment that affect your health, or you may have many. There is such a wide spectrum along which the impact of cancer on you may fall.