Some survivors say that after cancer they appreciate every day more. Although I can’t make that broad a statement, there are many things I enjoy more.
Some of these are experiences that were off limits during my cancer treatment. A year of restrictions follows a bone marrow transplant, with the goal of protecting your fragile immune system from bacteria. These restrictions include prohibitions on fresh fruits and vegetables — the kinds of things you always thought were good for you.
I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors, but during my treatment I also had to make changes in that part of my life. I had to stay away from freshly mown grass (I used to hold my breath if there was no way around), and couldn’t possibly do any gardening (I once pulled a weed and ended up with aspergillus, a dangerous fungal infection.)
At first, you are told to avoid public places, and then can only socialize when wearing a mask and gloves. You can’t eat anything cooked outside the home — forget about eating in a restaurant.
Four bone marrow transplants in 10 years means living four years with “Stop” signs all around you.
There’s an old joke about a man, a bit of a loner, who complains to his psychiatrist that he can’t sleep. The doctor tells him to invite all of his friends and relatives, everyone he knows, to his apartment. Eventually, the apartment becomes so crowded for so long that the troubled man falls asleep standing up.
At that point, following the doctor’s instructions, the man tells everyone to go home so that he can see how the rest of the night goes.
It works. The man experiences the best night’s sleep he’s ever had, newly appreciating the peace and quiet in his home.
The joke is basically the opposite of mine — a story of adding instead of taking away — but the result is the same. When you get back to where you were, you appreciate “normal” even more.
It is strawberry season here in Massachusetts, the part of late June and early July that is anticipated by berry lovers every year. I’m so happy that I can once again eat the sweet, juicy fruit, and smell the freshly mown grass or pick a flower from the garden.
I do it all with a new sense of appreciation.
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