Tomorrow is Megan’s first day of school since she became ill last summer, and she’s excited to get back to her friends. We’re excited for her, too, but also nervous. Nervous because a routine virus triggered her illness, and a routine virus could trigger a relapse. Nervous because the chemo altered her appearance; she won’t look exactly the same to her friends who haven’t seen her in six months. And we’re nervous about whether her stamina has recovered enough to last through even the shorter day of a reduced schedule. Although we’re nervous, there was no question that she should go back to school once the doctors cleared her. We can’t keep her in a protective bubble, tempting as that may be.
Returning to school is a significant step on the road back to normalcy. We’re finding, however, that returning to normal isn’t as straightforward as you might think. In five short months, we whiplashed into critical illness and hospital living, and just as suddenly, back into our normal lives. Except it’s not normal. We must look that way to outsiders, and much of daily life is. But it’s taking time to readjust, like the way your eyes adjust when suddenly coming into the light after a period of darkness. I’m convinced that only those who’ve been there can understand it. I’m not sure I fully understand it myself yet.
While I don’t usually put much stock in the symbolism of the new year, this year is different. I’m relieved to put 2014 behind us, along with all we lost. But I’m also grateful for what we gained from the experience, though we’d never have chosen it. Changed, stronger, we will take the good from this forward into our new normal, into our bright new start. Happy first day of school, sweetie…I’m so proud of you!
“Beginnings are always messy.” –John Galsworthy