Cancer is transforming me. Slowly but surely, I am uncovering the gift cancer offers me.
Almost 2 years after my diagnosis, I am just beginning to glimpse how my life choices culminated in this most unimaginable place. For years, I have hidden stress deep in my body. I worried more than I laughed, I yelled at my children for having fun too loudly, I strived, strained and yearned for perfection in every aspect of my life, all the while fearing I was totally undeserving of any goodness. The critical health crisis here is not breast cancer. No, the crisis is perspective, and only I can change how I view the world.
This disease has woken me up, scared me out of my mind. Cancer means I am finally paying attention to what my body has been telling me for years – life isn’t working! You can’t work 10 hours a day, giving all of yourself to your colleagues and then go home and give more of yourself to your family. You can’t be the perfect manager and perfect mother and perfect partner. You can’t have the perfect body and perfect meal plan and perfect meeting agenda. Something has to give. Somewhere cracks are forming. Somewhere something is wrong.
My world imploded the moment of my diagnosis. I left work early one day for a biopsy and never went back. My body still remembers the fear that filled me, numbed all my senses, when the oncologist spoke those words – breast cancer, treatable, not curable. The heart wrenching process of telling my parents, holding my daughter and son on my lap, sharing the news with them – moments I still feel deeply. Images of pain, confusion, fear, held sharply in my mind. The desperation with which I searched the internet for any safe hold I could find, any person or concept that would offer what the doctors wouldn’t – a cure. The affirmations I repeated to myself whenever I felt the fear rising. Bravely visiting naturopaths, acupuncturists, reiki masters’, massage therapists, anyone I thought could heal my body. Telling my story over and over again in hopes that if enough people heard the words someone could help, truly help, take the responsibility away from me, or at the very least, ease the emotional pain.
In retrospect, my body was sending signals for a very long time, almost 10 years in fact. The first problem was my thyroid, then depression and anxiety, then my thyroid again, on-going bouts of depression, all culminating in a painful mass in my breast. Through all these aliments, I did my due diligence. I visited the specialists, submitted to tests and took the prescriptions. Believing I was taking the best steps for me, or at least for my family, I took the medications and tried to keep living life ‘normally’. At one point, I attempted to avoid the anti-depressants, feeling there had to be another way. “I don’t really need another pill, do I?”, I asked. Eventually I gave in though, because as my therapist indicated “you just don’t have enough time in the day to heal naturally”. So onward I trudged, head down, heart even lower, just trying to keep on keeping on.
Cancer brings clarity. With these new eyes, I see now that I absolutely have enough time to heal naturally. I just needed to decide I am worth the time, that I deserve to heal the way that feels right. In fact, I even get to decide what it means to be healed! What healed feels like. More importantly though, I needed to accept that only I can heal me. I needed to accept that I am the sole individual responsible for healing my body, mind and spirit. Others offer knowledge or experience, a perspective, perhaps some guidance, but none of them inhabit this space of me, none of them can heal me. This body is mine to nurture, love, create and re-create. Everyday I chose to inhabit this body. Everyday I chose life.
I know that I will heal from breast cancer, regardless of what others may say, because I have decided to heal. I am no longer afraid. I accept full responsibility for being here in this place and I own the complete responsibility for setting how I will spend the rest of my time on earth. Deep inside I knew all along that I needed to help myself, I just wasn’t willing to accept the truth, or more precisely, I wasn’t willing to change.
A dear friend described me as ‘more now than before my diagnosis’. I completely agree! I feel worthy of life and love, and understand what matters like never before. I am fulfill by activities that bring me joy, not lists of things to do, stuff to buy. I am open to a life purpose that will nurture my soul, fill me with gratitude and compassion, no longer concerned with appeasing societies perspective of what is acceptable. I am learning to believe in more than myself, trusting that the universe has got my back. I am transforming. I am not coping with breast cancer. I am transforming through cancer. Cancer, the gift that opened my eyes and showed me, myself.