The Next Chapter
“I don’t want to turn into the cancer girl again,” I sigh as I flop onto his couch. “But I feel it happening.”
I was the cancer girl once. Known around RVA largely due to my willingness to chat with folks about what it means to be 23 and be kicked in the gut by a surprise diagnosis. It didn’t happen to me, I took the role on willingly, but over time it consumed me. If you ask me now, applying that particular label to my forehead is in no small part responsible for the follow-up diagnosis I would receive 14 years later.
This is part of why the blog had to go blank for a while. I needed to step out of the boxes I had started placing myself in. Like those nesting Russian dolls, I needed time to remove them, one by one.
Two-time cancer patient.
Two-time cancer survivor.
Radical remission evangelist.
One by one I peeled them away, kissed them lovingly on the forehead, and placed them alongside the most recent pile of belongings that also no longer fit me – the whole lot ready to be carted off to the Goodwill.
Standing back and taking in what remained, I wasn’t entirely certain what I was looking at. Despite the fact that for the first time what I was looking at was actually me.
* * *
So here we are. Another new chapter.
In the last week I couldn’t help but reflect back on the time when I purchased the kaitykasper.com domain. It was in my wildly flailing period, when I was straining to cram a hexagonal peg into an oval hole no matter how hard the pieces resisted. I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going or what I would be offering the world or what my message might be. But I knew I had to get out there right.this.minute and I’m glad I did because it gave me a format for my musings on living through the hell of cancer and what its like to rise from the quite-nearly-dead and learn to fly on phoenix wings.
It was recovery-warrior-Kaity and Christian-Kaity who cultivated that initial space. And then it was cancer-patient-Kaity who did the writing. Others of us joined in there as the path wove on. But the labels started competing and things got murky and there were battles over who actually owned that territory. Something like an internal civil war.
Things came to a bit of a head when the battle of “what does it mean to be a Christian” ensued in my heart and I found myself no longer able to stay cramped within the confines of many of the boxes I had shoehorned myself into over the last decade of my life. The seams had been pulling for quite some time and they finally snapped all at once.
And my whole honest-to-goodness self spilled out all over the floor.
* * *
My teacher spoke not long ago about the necessity of laying down those things that no longer serve us. She said that failing to do so was akin to continuing to wear clothing that is too small. I recognized immediately what she was describing – the feeling of my life struggling with a muffin top due to wearing labels that didn’t fit exactly right. Out of stubbornness – or maybe fear – (or definitely fear) – I refused to leave those labels behind even if it meant I could breathe a bit easier, move a bit freer, dance a bit more wildly.
* * *
Something has become very clear to me in the course of my time writing this blog. It’s that I always want to make sure that it is me writing. Just me. Not the me with a particular label slapped across her lips or the me who is tied up tight in the bounds of fear and control-seeking.
I talk big about things like vulnerability and truth telling and authenticity. And believe-you-me, I’ve come a long, long way in each of those departments over the course of the last several years. So it came as something of a surprise when, just a few months back, I was slapped in the face with the reality that the labels I’ve attempted to assign myself and the boxes I’ve tried to live in the confines of were just another way of trying to hide. Maybe not from others. But definitely from myself.
It took some sitting to get my head around that reality.
But it was true. Because if I knew where I belonged and who I looked like and where I fit in I could just rattle off the list of “who I was” instead of ever really understanding the true – and more complex – answer to that question.
* * *
The thing with Instagram and Facebook and the internet generally is that its so easy to fall into the idea that we each need a message to shout from the virtual rooftops. That we need to be a “warrior” of some kind in order to gain followers and leave our mark on the world. With the realization that I won’t have children to carry on my “legacy” when I leave this lifetime behind, I can get particularly scrambled up in that idea, hoping that maybe I will find a message that will last beyond my physical years.
This is 100% ego. I know that. But still, it happens. And when it happens, it a label that starts speaking. Not bare-bones Kaity.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are some good messages that come out of our self-imposed labels. For me, there is so much that I can share around the messages of holistic healing, and sobriety, and Christianity. But there is a distinct difference between sharing a message that stems from a part of your journey and becoming that part of your journey to the exclusion of everything else. That’s where I can start to get confused. That’s where I’ve found some of my greatest hiding places.
* * *
I recently stopped going to my oncologist for multiple reasons. First of all, its dang expensive. Its impossible to unbury yourself from a pile of medical bills when each time you walk through a hospital door you find yourself tumbled on by an avalanche of more medical bills. Scans four times a year and blood work every month just were not in the parameters of my budget, so I decided to scale them back.
After a few months off, though, I came to a startling realization. Yes, another one.
I realized that by continuing to walk into that hospital over, and over, and over again, I was allowing myself to stay in the column labeled “cancer patient” – even though I’m not anymore. For as long as I continued doing what they told me to do – even when knowing I am alive and well (and that if I wasn’t, I sure as heck wasn’t doing any more chemotherapy) I was going to keep a label affixed to myself that I no longer needed – like a price sticker that refuses to remove itself from the bottom of a thrift store candle.
So I ripped that sucker right off.
And once that label one gone, the others started peeling away too.
* * *
The blog is going to change a bit going forward. You’ll still be getting an up-close look at my personal journey, but I’ll also be using this forum to teach y’all a bit about my passions. So you’ll be finding some substantive posts mixed in as well. I hope you’ll enjoy getting a peek into what I am studying and why these tools have been so valuable in my healing. I’m excited to share them and I hope you’re excited to learn a bit too.
* * *
Stepping away from the label maker has been hard. Partially because I am uncertain what’s left in the wake of all that peeling away. But it feels lighter to be free of that load. Brighter. Right.
So here we go again, into even more unchartered territory.
Let’s see what we find this time.