By Jessica “JP” Protasio
The water rolls softly and the rhythmic splash of the paddle in my hands cuts the kayak through the calmness. The sun stretches my skin taut across my cheeks just as I smile; hearing my friends’ laughter a quarter-mile out from the pier where they’re dancing their feet in the cool water. The river moseys left toward more homes, boats, and piers and other places I’ve not traveled and down a ways to right, it opens to the Chesapeake. I splash my way equidistant to every pier in sight, rest the paddle across my lap and lean back to a clear sky, bobbing quietly in the remarkably tiny watercraft. This is a safe, happy place. A place that I remember being told I should “visualize,” “go to,” or “imagine,” in order to get some “rest” while I was going through treatment. I can’t say that it helped me much then, but being out on the water, certainly did.
Sometimes we need to excuse ourselves from the five-minute mile expectations of this life and just lay down in a quiet, safe, space. Too often I’ve neglected to give myself the time to be still. I’m absolutely convinced that rest is just as important a component of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as exercise and diet. Regardless of whether you’re in recovery, going through treatment, or just going about your day, rest should be a part of it. Paying attention to your body’†s needs on every level is important.
I’m learning that the cancer journey doesn’t end with a clean blood test or clear scan. Even in remission, the impact cancer’s had remains. I spoke recently with a fellow “not a wallower” survivor who shared with me an experience with handling life once in remission. She said, “It’s like people think that once you’re in remission you’re done. Life is normal again. Truth is, it’s not. It’s no where near normal. It takes months or years to get back to anything that resembles normalcy.
It’s embarrassing, frustrating, and often difficult to explain to friends or family who’ve known you prior to diagnosis that “I need to get home and sleep,” “I’m not feeling up for that,” or “I can’t eat at that buffet.” What’s worse is when some of us fail to say anything at all and ignore our friends to avoid that awkwardness- or we deny our fragility and try to live up to expectations and then, feel miserable! I’ve been on just about every side of this and have learned that being well is my priority. My friends and family will understand and when they don’t, it’s painful. It makes me wonder if they think cancer was my version of a vacation. Cancer isn’t an excuse, but maintaining my wellness is a reason to say, “I need to sit this one out.”
Unfortunately, some people just aren’t able to wrap their minds around the beating your body, mind, and soul take from cancer’s blow. Yet, no matter how far along you are in your cancer journey, your wellness must be a priority. Rest when you need to rest, play hard when you feel like moving, and do what your doctors tell you to do. When we move, eat well, and rest- our bodies thank us by getting stronger, leaner, and healthier. So, instead of running sprints everyday in everything that you do for the rest of your life, change your pace every now and then. Your life with thank you.
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