I must have been waiting on "pins and needles" without knowing it. I wasn't prepared for the rush of emotion that came with hearing the news, "It's not cancer". I was so prepared to hear that it was cancer, the flood of relief that flowed through me could've filled a swimming pool! I had let my guard down and that damned devil, named Cancer, snuck up and tapped me on the shoulder. Of course he then ran like hell with me hot on his tail! After the original diagnosis, I felt like I stepped into the middle of a silent hurricane. There was a roar and a rage that spun my life in a direction I had never anticipated. You see, being diagnosed with cancer is a close brush with your mortality. The reality of one's own death is suddenly very close, having moved from an abstract inevitability to a very real, possible outcome. Your safety, security and optimism about your life and the future is shaken. The world is revealed as unfair.
When diagnosed you are suddenly cocooned in a surreal world with doctors appointments, chemo infusions and for some, daily radiation. Chemotherapy, for those who have not experienced it, is no picnic. There are all sorts of chemicals they use to poison the cancer cells. Imagine your worst hangover ever, and nothing you do makes it feel any better. Not drinking, not sleeping, not eating. And this lasts for days. Eventually there comes a time when the doctors smile kindly and tell you to go live the rest of your life. When treatment ends, your family and friends assume you are cured and say silly things like they can't believe how good you look. Hell yeah, I look good, I just kicked cancer's ass!!! So, what does life after cancer look like?
I think you just go on. You live each moment as it happens. I'm embarking on another leg of the trip. This one is all about adjusting to life as a breast cancer survivor. In many ways, it should be a lot like the life I had before, but in other ways, it will be very different. Call it my "new normal." This is what I discovered through my cancer journey:
1. I have never felt so loved. I had so much support from my family, friends, colleagues, and derby girls. People gave me books, movies, flowers, brought me food, chocolate, and plenty of other goodies. I experienced a real tsunami of love. People around the world were praying for me, many I had never met. I felt connected and cherished. However it was not that the cancer caused love to flow; rather it was the realization that this love had been around me all the time but I had been so busy, so focused on my narrow little life, that I did not feel open to it. Like a sledgehammer, cancer cracked open my awareness to giving and receiving an abundance of love. I feel it flow effortlessly in my life now.
2. Compassion. I gained even more compassion for people - you just never know what they have been through. I now treat every encounter with another person with a lot more grace and care. I approach them from a foundation of compassion. This is a much more gentle and peaceful way to engage with others. Most important of all, I gained compassion for myself. I stopped judging myself so harshly, stopped trying to be perfect.
3. In facing death, I learned about life. In the middle of chemotherapy as I lay on the couch, feeling dreadful, gazing out the window, I started to notice the sunlight on the leaves, the blue of the sky, the birds at the birdfeeder. It was magic. And I realized that everywhere there was a compulsive and unrelenting push for life. But whether you have cancer or not, none of us knows what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, or in five years from now. You can choose to live in fear, or you can choose to live in possibility and joy. All any of us ever have is now, this moment - right here right now. And those moments are magic.
To celebrate I'm going to sign myself up for Blood and Thunder's roller derby camp scheduled for February in Corpus Christi, Texas! Derby On!