Re-Entry

Waiting room

Waiting room (Photo credit: AstridWestvang)

“You’re so brave” they tell Helena her first day back at work. That phrase has been uttered so many times in the last month it almost lacks meaning for her. It is not that she does not appreciate the displays of affection, the reflexive politeness of peers and associates, the genuine concern and love coming from long time friends. She knows they all mean well and some are honestly impressed or caring. She is grateful for them even if her declarations of that gratitude have become somewhat robotic the last few weeks.

Her hair has grown back and she can handle the bus ride without getting winded now. Skin that turned from the healthy bronze of an active woman to a sickly, pale, white-pink has regained some of its color. It has been a long thirty days since her doctor announced she was tumor free, after an even longer two-year battle to make that happen. Two years full of chemo, home health aids, and so many moments of false promise. After all that she had to get back into the game: back to church, back to her charities, back to her family, and back to work. To do less would drive her insane.

That is why she cannot understand why they think she is brave. She is healthy now, why would she not want to reclaim her life? If going after what you want and need, at a pace acceptable to your GP and oncologist, is brave, what does it say of people who face real danger for doing so? It is kind, she knows this, but it makes her feel self-conscious. She does not want to be a survivor, she just wants to be. Helena is no dummy, she understands that weird, little cancer with a name she cannot pronounce will always define her in some way, she just wishes she could escape it, for just a while.

She cannot, however, and though it is emotionally tiring, Helena accepts this. She smiles and thanks her co workers when they compliment her. She listens to their somewhat intrusive questions. Then she puts her nose to the grindstone and gets back to it. Maybe she is brave, she lets herself think, if only for being willing to walk this gauntlet of well wishers.

 

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