I have a confession to make….I used to love salsa dancing. I’m talking salsa class on Tuesday night, out at a local bar playing salsa music with dancing on Wednesdays, free salsa on Thursdays with the people who also show up on Tuesdays, and of course Fridays and Saturdays at other salsa hot spots around town. Sunday was a day of rest. 😉
When my mom got sick, I still went out dancing. It was this great release; a night of wild dancing and feeling sexy and living because that was what we were all here for. When I had my biopsy surgery, I was out of dancing for a few weeks while I healed and that is when everything changed. As the stress of my mother’s sickness and my own started to take over my life, I no longer went out dancing. Anything past 8 pm was just too late to the leave the house. I hated this. I tried staying in my salsa class. I would go to the first class session, pay my money, and then not come for the rest of the 6 weeks. Every night that I missed I felt guilt and longing for the old me that could stay up late at night. It wasn’t that I didn’t like dancing anymore…I just had no energy that late in the evening. I didn’t want to admit that there were changes because of cancer.
This shame that I felt for not salsa dancing anymore, for releasing this part of my past identity, haunted me. I would meet a new person, slowly get to know them, and eventually think to myself, I wonder if they even know how much I used to LOVE going out salsa dancing?
I couldn’t grasp who I was anymore, now that this part of myself that I’d liked so much wasn’t there anymore.
As time went by, I was finally able to skip that initial salsa class and avoid paying the money for all of the sessions that I was probably going to skip anyway. After even more time went by, I stopped feeling guilty about this. I was finally able to make peace with the person that I am now…the person who has survived cancer. I won’t hide behind a facade though and claim that I now that I am cancer free, I go out dancing all the time…because I don’t. I have though, since my last cancer treatment, gone out dancing until super late at night, and I inevitably wake up the next day feeling like I did something so bad the night before that the gods of early mornings are shunning me.
It is finally time to think about this in a more concrete, tangible manner. I still love to dance. At my wedding, I danced the night away with friends and family…and I even danced some salsa with my lovely husband. My identity is so much more than whether or not I go salsa dancing 5 times a week or whether I enjoy going out past 8 pm. I am still the sexy person who stayed up past 2 am just to salsa dance and then showed up in the lab the next morning at 8 am….only now I tend to have calmer evenings and prefer slightly more sleep. There are changes because of cancer.
This is part of my survivorship story. What is yours?