Wednesday, April 4, 2007
My Best Teacher
Breast Cancer, the best teacher this woman has ever had!
When this all first began, it was like being sucked up into a vacuum. It was pure chaos. Crazy does not even begin to cover it. There was no way to see the Forrest for the trees frankly. The words, "breast cancer," seemed surreal. It was just an elaborate hoax. There was no way I had cancer. But the truth was, I did.
Suddenly all my fears were front and center demanding all my attention. Up until that moment, I had just been coasting through life. Yes, I needed to take better care of myself. Yes, I really should have dug myself out of the mommyhood trap, but I was content with life just the way it was. I had no real concerns about the future or how I looked to others. I was good to go in a T-shirt, jeans and a pony tail. I didn't take time to have my nails done, or have my hair cut. Lingerie was a thing of the past and just a fantasy of my husbands wild imagination. I always figured that I would have time for all that. I always told myself, later, next week. But later never came. We had somehow bypassed tomorrow and landed in a time warp.
Now, I take time for the littlest of things. The simple things mean more to me than anything else. Sitting at the table helping my boys to do their homework, actually cooking a meal or simply being able to sit through a baseball game without feeling the need to hurl is a triumph worth celebrating. I would say that before my cancer, I had yet to fully understand my purpose in this life. I had gone to college, married and become a mother. I felt I was a good mother, not too bad of a wife and a decent friend. I was just traveling down the road of life. I had purpose and a reason to live. Little did I know just how lacking I was in all those areas. Insecurity reigned in my world and I had no real idea it had such a tight hold on me. Then the cancer came. Suddenly I was thrust into a whole new world of existence.
I have found in my journey that insecurity swings two ways. Either it can cause you to hide yourself in a muddle, and stay in the shadows afraid to come out of your shell. Or it can cause you to throw yourself into the business of always being on top and having to be in control of everything, all the time. The problem is that you can't hide from your own shadow any more than you can keep your nose in every book, all day long. Before cancer, I wanted to please everyone, all the time. What cancer has taught me is that I can't do that. But I can be a good mom and I can be a loving wife and I can keep my friends close. I can be grateful for each and every blessing in my life. I can fight like a girl without feeling puny. I can wear pink and be proud. I can be bald and still feel beautiful.
Again I say I did not fully understand my purpose in life. I can say now, 15 months later and almost 34 years after my birth, I understand that purpose. This cancer has changed me. It has pruned and grown me in ways I could never have imagined and it has opened my eyes to my own potential. I am ready to be an advocate and to let my voice be heard. Some may not like what I have to say, but then no one likes hearing that cancer sucks. But it does. So there, I have said it. Cancer sucks, but it also solidifies and carries your soul to a new, beautiful and peaceful state of being!
Cancer is not pretty. It is not easy. It is not just something that you "get over." Long after your diagnosis, and once you are done with the initial process, "it" stays with you. Not in a "feel sorry for me" kind of way, but in an empowering kind of way. Suddenly you have looked death straight in the eyes and lived to tell about it. You know what real freedom is and understand it's price. No, you haven't exactly bounced back completely, maybe you never will. But you have defined yourself and your place in this life. Yes, your body has aged by years in the year since your chemotherapy started, but you don't give into it. Yes, you still have to work twice as hard to keep up, but the point is you do keep up. You have learned to live in spite of life. As soon as your nails stop falling off, you get that manicure you always put off. As soon as you have hair, you start to "fix it" and yes you start pulling a "look" together. When you are accused of being "too cutesy," you just grin and take it as a complement. That's what cancer does for you. It strengthen you, encourages your true self to shine through. Your needs are very different now, but you have learned that different is not necessarily a bad thing.
Bottom line? Cancer is a teacher if you will let it be. Cancer gives you sacred space that you did not allow yourself before. Cancer gives you today, and not the constant idling Promise of "Tomorrow." Cancer is a wake up call to begin living life and in the end becomes a faithful friend always reminding you of just how blessed you really are to be alive!