It's hard to believe that it was been 24 weeks since Dan passed away... technically we've reached the six month point. I have a couple of observations about what I've experienced, so indulge me.
First, I really had no idea what was going to happen after March. The first two months, I wasn't working so it was really about getting through the day. I never once stayed in my bed all day and cried. It just didn't seem like a good thing to do. But I didn't really do much of anything- so I think it was pretty much a blur. Then you think it will start to get better around months 3-4. Those were actually the worst thus far. I wasn't prepared to keep going downhill. I wasn't prepared to go to work and not have any motivation. That was irritating. And it's only been about 4 weeks since I started to feel a little more normal. Really, you have no idea what it's like, and as it's been said many times- everyone's experience is different. I promise you- I will never use the phrase "I know how you feel" because none of us does.
The first 6 months- I think it's like the triathlon I just did. While waiting to enter the water for the swim, they corral you into large groups. I hadn't bothered to really look at the course, so I asked the girl next to me- "So we just swim out to the buoy and off to the left?" She laughed and said, "No, you take a right and swim waaaaaaay down and then all the way back." I was like- uh oh. I had done all my swimming in the pool, and had been swimming up to a mile. However, when you see the distance laid out in a lake... uh, yeah. Not the same. Looking back, if I knew how much distance I would have to cover in the past 6 months, would I have even had the courage to get in the water & begin the recovery?
But, I do get in the water. Convinced I was going to need to conserve all my energy, I went out all the way to the last point where I could stand and not have to tread water. I stayed in the back, not wanting to get kicked in the face (which happened later). And then- you're off. Swimming in murky waters. You can't really see where you are going and it's almost dark, with the exception of the 5 seconds your head turns to breathe. I start off swimming in one direction, and about a minute later I realize I am completely off-course. Crap- I adjust. Head back in the murky water. Just thinking- if I make it to the farthest point, that will be enough. So I kept swimming & readjusting, kinda irritated at my slow progress. I reach marker #1 and make the turn back. Now, if I can just get myself past the starting point.... this involves a huge wide turn, and probably another 2 minutes correcting myself. I went all the right, just to have to come all the way left and up in the same place I started.
Just like the last 6 months... I tried some things and for a few seconds , I was on the right course, and then I put my head back in the murky water. But I just have to keep going, because if I don't, I will literally drown- in the grief, anger, sadness, lonliness. I feel comforted, because I know that if I really need them, there are people there waiting to pull me out of the water. They won't let me drown. I may not need them because I want to finish on my own, but it's a comfort to know they are there.
Eventually I settle down during the swim, just picking out little points to get to, and just grinding it out. Then, I finally realize I might just make it out of the water without drowning. And it's pretty emotional. I try to pass a few people and eventually do. All of a sudden, I am out of the water, running to the transistion. It wasn't pretty, but I made it.
Yep, that was the first 6 months. It wasn't pretty, but I made it. And with a little bit of momentum. I am not silly enough to think the hard part is over. Now it's about truly beginning my own life, and that will be equally hard. I will move much more away from the "Dan's fiance" label to well, just me. I like being known as Dan's fiance, but I can't say that forever.
So what the next 6 months will bring- I have no idea. I am smart enough not to place any expectations on it. But I have the lessons that I will take with me... I will drink 8 glasses of water every day (this was the best advice I got, meaning take care of yourself & the small stuff). I will wear lots of bright colors because life is too short to wear black. I will keep surrounding myself with my friends and family- the number of which has doubled. I will keep doing the things that make me happy. I will keep trying to figure out how to make a difference in the cancer world. I will keep Dan in my heart every day. And I will keep writing... so stay tuned.
A Survivor Story: Lara Maldonado
21 hours ago