I was talking with a good friend the other day and she gave me some advice about my blog. It mostly came down to me writing about something I have specific knowledge about, something I can share so others can learn &/or appreciate. She also focused on one area in particular, she felt I had not only survived cancer, but I thrived. She then repeated my own words (spoken just moments before), “it’s been lovely this year,” she couldn’t believe how positive I was throughout my treatment and even more so, one year later!! She wanted to know what I did, so maybe she could use the tools I used to make a bad situation into something nurturing and empowering, and she felt other people would be interested as well.
Although good advice, it juxtaposed my desire to not write about my cancer, it was too raw six months ago; so instead, I wanted my writing to come from where my passions took me, more of a living, breathing page (and less like a sales call). I also wanted to get as far away from cancer’s door as possible… and definitely not relive chemo and my fears. But here I am almost one year later, much stronger; thinking I can revisit my experience, even celebrate it in a way. I certainly want to celebrate my anniversary, didn’t think that year could come fast enough. I am proud of how hard I have worked to keep the disease away, and I am feeling really good — really, really good!
It was easy at times to fall into a pit of fear… but I couldn’t stay down for long (kids don’t allow for that), although I think it is genetically impossible for me to see the worst in a bad situation (unless flying). That is something you learn on a hard journey, how do you really handle a crisis?!!
I tend to be an optimist, and I did have what I thought to be some good news at the start, I found the cancer at stage III. If diagnosed, everyone would rather be stage I or II and no one wants to be stage IV!! Regardless what stage, you are scared shitless… and you will come out the other end a different person than when you started (a topic worthy of its own post).
Another positive factor was the connection and respect I felt for my Doctor, mostly on a level that cannot be easily explained. I wanted to work with him and felt quite confident that he was going to cure me. Although many people in my life shared their fears of Kaiser Health Care, I found them to be accommodating and precise once we found my cancer in the emergency room. I left that day with an appointment with my Onc-Doc for the very next day and he started my chemo within the week. I didn’t want to waste time finding multiple opinions, I had researched enough to know my best plan and I was drawn to that chemo-battle. Regardless, my naysayers soon fell in line and we haven’t looked back since! The one piece of advice regarding your doctors & health insurance is that you must be your own advocate; I researched everything until I felt satisfied and that is very important for your piece of mind.
I absolutely knew that chemo needed to happen fast and continuously for the next three months; I refused to get sick and risk missing a week’s treatment, I wanted my body blasted with poison aimed to kill that black mass. Voldemort’s black cloud tendrils falling from the sky in Harry Potter was the closest looking and second scariest thing next to my MRI scan. My house became a sanitary and green-product war zone; no one entered without using EO Hand Sanitizer from Whole Foods. I wore a mask when in large public places, so obviously avoided going out in public much. My kids were not allowed in my bedroom if they were sick and I slept a good ten hours a day. Adding other life-style changes including a reboot in how I looked at food and nutrition, and you have the start of a good cancer battle.
Basically, the largest facet in my healing toolbox was ME… I wanted to live and I fought for it with an athlete’s focus. Then of course, I was (and am) fully plugged into the Tal Ben-Shahar theory of individuals who have life threatening illnesses & suddenly (and permanently) change their lives – “creating meaning and happiness that hadn’t been there before that moment.” He feels we already have all the wisdom we need, but weren’t living it until we got our spiritual slap in the face! My big take away is that it’s far easier to lead your brigade of change than it is to be dragged alongside kicking and screaming; so pick your fight song and build a playlist for your daily walks and honest soul-searching.
I found myself dropping years of built-up insecurities and issues, I actually felt light filtering into my soul, slowly awakening a rebirth that I whole-heartedly nurtured. Brene Brown said it best, “let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are.” I am thankful for my new life and yes, I get nervous, but I am far too happy living my life with intention and way too busy doing the fun things I’ve always wanted to start. No longer insecure about falling on my face, it seems far worse to never have tried… because baby, I’ve fallen and as it turns out, a lot of good can come from being scared.