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Just Like Yesterday

In December, 2021, I deleted over 20 names from my Christmas letter mailing list. OK, I then had to scramble to put a lot of them back in 2022. Maybe someday I’ll get better at recovering deleted data. But that December, I wasn’t interested in data. I was angry.

“Surviving” breast cancer treatment was hard enough. Enduring it during a pandemic was even harder. But trying to put my life together afterwards was the hardest of all.

I spent a lot of time trying to process what I’d been through and finding that post-Covid “new normal” everyone seemed to be talking about. I hired two new trainers, got back into the pool, bought lots of new clothes for my now-smaller body, got some focused therapy, and worked very hard trying to convince myself that even if the whole experience had changed me, change could be for the better. For the most part, two and a half years later, I can say that it’s worked. Mostly.

But I’m not just a cancer survivor. I’m also a sexual abuse survivor. And that just makes it harder.

The list of similarities between surviving the two traumas grows longer and longer every time I think about it. Fear that you’ll never “get over it.” Lack of trust in in the people who are supposed to be helping you. Shame, as though it’s all somehow your fault. The overwhelming need to isolate yourself, as if hiding will somehow change things for the better.

And worst of all, no one will ever let you talk about it.

They try. For maybe about five minutes, until you see their eyes glazing over and you know it’s time to quit. You’ve had what little time and attention they’re willing to give.

Or maybe they give you more time to talk for a time or two, but eventually you learn that you don’t really want to bring it up again. They’re over it. All they want to hear is that you’re OK. That what they always ask. “You’re OK now, right?” Which means tell it’s all over, so I don’t have to keep thinking about it. Or they say, “BUT you’re OK now, right?” Which definitely means “Get over it. I don’t want to hear it all again.”

And here’s the biggest similarity of all. You’re not over it, and you never will be. Cancer could come back at any time. You never saw it coming the first time, right?

I’ll never know if cancer treatment would have been different without Covid. Maybe there would have been more support services available. Maybe I could have found a better wig. Maybe the social worker would have returned my calls.

And maybe, just maybe, I might have had a few visitors. But the pandemic didn’t close down texts and emails. Would I have received any on-line support at all if I hadn’t sent out regular emails of my own?

I restored most of my Christmas list, and I save my deeper discussions for the handful of friends who care enough to listen. I guess this is what they mean about taking the high road. I work on my healing, and I try to use what I’ve learned to help other survivors of both traumas.

Do I forgive? I suppose so. Do I forget? Never.


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