“Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on but you keep going anyway.” ~Anonymous
In this last post for October, I just want to say how humbled I am to share my thoughts, my stories and my life with you. This blog started out as a means to cope, to deal with cancer and to fight back. Little did I know back then not only would I survive breast cancer but I’d also develop a voice of my own along the way. In finding my voice and in battling the big C, I’ve come to understand the deeper meaning in Marianne Williamson’s words, “Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor.” My knees did indeed hit the floor but today, October 31, 2016, some 10 years since cancer came for me I have emerged stronger. I sit here in awe, blessed and grateful to be able to call myself a SURVIVOR.
Ten years ago this past December I found a lump in my breast that ultimately changed my life forever. What did I know at the age of 32 about breast cancer? I can tell you, absolutely nothing. Honestly I thought it was a disease only older women faced. I had no clue this new, mutated ( again proof I'm a mutant) misunderstood and aggressive form of breast cancer called triple negative was just beginning to scratch the surface. I learned quickly enough it was not only aggressive, affecting mostly women under 40 and accounting for just 15 % of breast cancers at the time but it was also more likely to spread beyond the breast and to come back again. Like wow, (I can hear that song echoing in my ears now) and yes I can even say that backwards too, wow. In my case it certainly spread past my breast and made it into my lymp-nodes. Hence the whole chemo regimen began and my body started to fail me. I had to dig deep, fighting with everything I had. TNBC was a beast, she came, she saw and she lost. In the days, the weeks, the months and in the years since cancer made her mark on my life I’ve discovered J.R.R.R Tolkien’s words of wisdom hold true. “It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.”
As cancer made a B line and grappled for my life, I fought back. Not for Queen and Country, but for my children and husband, for my mama, for my daddy and for myself. Something I learned in the middle of this thing we call breast cancer is simply this : I had more fight in me than I ever knew. I found this strong warrior hiding inside myself. Courage was not something I just found lying around, no courage claimed me, planted itself and then grew bravery inside my heart. Living, making memories was something I no longer took for granted anymore. I not only wanted to survive I wanted to live fully. And that’s exactly what I did. We didn’t waste a moment. It wasn’t about bucket lists; it was simply about living, experiencing life with my family. And boy did we live. I don’t think we have ever really stopped actually. See it’s not about climbing actual mountains or traveling around the world and back again. No, living life fully and abundantly is about being able to say as you take your last breath, “You chose your life. You didn’t settle for it.” Maybe we all need to live like we’re dying, and stop dying to live.
The truth is this, up to my 32nd birthday I hadn’t known what life was all about really. Honestly, I thought I understood what having fight in you meant but I had no idea. Being faced with breast cancer changed all of that for me. My perspective flipped, doing a complete 180. Listening to the lyrics from Rachel Platten’s Fight Song now, 10 years after cancer, I’m reminded why we continue to persevere and endure in spite of cancer’s overwhelming obstacles. Every time the opportunity presents itself , I sing these words as loud as I can, “This is my fight song, take back my life song, prove I'm alright song. My power's turned on; starting right now I'll be strong…'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me.” I am alright, I have taken back my life and yes I DO still have a lot of fight left in me. And by God’s grace I will continue to. I guess you could say through it all I’ve found James 1:3 to be constantly true in my life, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”
Life Lesson #88 ~ in the middle of it all, life is to be spent well. We love, we laugh, we grieve, we hope, we forgive and we chase the extraordinary. And in doing so we find joy in life’s simple and beautiful moments. Do you want to know the biggest life lesson I have learned in these last 10 years? Well, it comes from Hunter S. Thompson. He couldn’t explain life during and after breast cancer any better than he does. “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow! What a ride!”.” This is how I aspire to live, to spend my life and to be remembered by.