I am finally starting to feel better from the last round of chemo. The cold is slowly going away, and the side effects seem to be getting better. In fact, I was feeling well enough to participate in an academic conference this weekend! I had applied to present a paper at the University of Toronto before I was diagnosed, and when I was accepted, I decided to do my best to be able to participate. Throughout my treatment, the conference felt ages away, a small dot on a distant horizon. But as my last chemo session came and went, I realized that it was time to get back to my research.
I both looked forward to and dreaded the conference. As I was preparing, I relished in all sorts of little things that would have seemed mundane before my diagnosis. It felt good to prepare my presentation, to put together the power point, to jot down some notes and potential questions. Yesterday (the day of my presentation), it was nice to put on a blazer, get on my wig, and paint mascara onto my four remaining eyelashes.
At the same time, I also worried about the conference. What if people could tell that I was sick? What if I started talking and suddenly blurted out, “I have cancer”? What if, while taking off my toque, my wig accidentally came off with it? Well, I’m happy to report that none of these things happened. I participated in the conference, presented a short paper (that seemed to be well-received), and as far as I know, no one in the room could tell that anything was wrong. And it felt good to present, to stand up in front of a room full of colleagues and discuss research, and to engage in conversations about things unrelated to illness. I got some great feedback on my paper and it made me feel inspired to get back to my dissertation.
It was also great to take a small step back toward my life before the diagnosis. The last few months have been an exercise in letting things go, saying goodbye to all sorts of things. In addition to the things I’ve already mentioned on the blog (losing my hair, being restricted in where I could go etc.), I also had to let go of the goal of graduating this spring. It was just one of the many changes and adjustments we had to make so that I could focus on getting better.
I’m sure there will be more letting go in the future, but the conference was a nice reminder that life and research continue, that there is still room for inspiration, and that letting go doesn’t mean giving up.