I have heard and read so many stories of cancer survivors that have described their journey with cancer as a blessing, or a gift. I’m like “Really? Are you serious?”. Lets recap briefly shall we. For the past five+ years I’ve battled. For most of that time I have been in some form of chemo treatment. My life has been completely uprooted. My career ended abruptly. I deal with physical illness and weakness off and on, in and out of treatment. I live with a fear and anxiety unlike I’ve ever known. The year 2014 was an eye-opener year that began with a forever changing gastro-intestinal surgery, scary weight loss, enduring pain and the nagging feeling that I would not live to see 2015. (Obviously I did!). I’ve faced the reality of this as a chronic (is that the replacement term for terminal?) disease as I watched a dear friend and sister survivor succumb. Does any of this sound like a gift to you?
Surprisingly to me, yes. In that same time, mostly in the last year, I’ve made progress on my mental strength. I’ve studied the mind body connection and began practices to strengthen the connection (Hooray for Yoga!) …strengthen the body to strengthen the mind, strengthen the mind to strengthen the body. I’ve worked harder at being authentic in my relationships by speaking more openly, saying things to those I love that have been in my head but never quite made it out of my mouth. My husband and I are closer now than we’ve ever been. I’ve grown relationships with wonderful women that battle this same disease and yes, that does carry some risk of heartache but also brings tremendous joy. I am exploring my spiritual life, still confused somewhat, but opening my heart up to a spiritual presence in my life. I’m learning how to live in the present. I am a work in progress, but I feel alive, inspired and more at peace with my life than I ever have in the past. I have occasional spells of fear and anxiety, but overall I have less anxiety now than I did before my diagnosis and I have more moments of joyful exhilaration that I never allowed myself before.
I feel gratitude…I never thought I would say that. I can see my disease now as a wake up call. A wake up call to get my head on straight, lead my life from a place of love and no longer torture myself with should’ve-would’ve-could’ve. Cancer has made me slow down, work on my inner self and minimize all the outside influences that drove me to present myself as someone I thought I was supposed to be.
I still have work to do. Fear, anxiety and guilt still creep in but not nearly as much. I feel the inspiration of opportunity replacing the anxiety more and more. I know I will still have good days and bad days but I feel hopeful for the first time in a very long time.
I’ve always thought the best way to go would be something like a massive heart attack… no long suffering, no muss no fuss, just quickly over and done. I’ve thought that living with cancer is a long, brutal way to go. But now I appreciate that I have been given conscious time. I can’t go back and re-do the past, but I can make the present as fulfilling as possible for me and those around me. Now, that is a gift. Time is always a gift and add to that consciousness and what an opportunity it has become!