I very rarely talk publicly about my cancer feelings. Instead, I focus on all of the work with Little Pink Houses of Hope. I am so proud of everything that has been accomplished because of caring and loving people in the past 4 years that I cannot even imagine my life without it. But today, it is fitting for me to give my cancer some attention.
Five years ago today, the doctors diagnosed me with an aggressive form of breast cancer. I don’t know if any words that the doctor said would have mattered, because the only thing that kept running through my mind was that I would die. I was scared that I would not be there to watch my son grow up. Who would love him like me? Who would be there to give him motherly advice? or give him a hug on a bad day? or cry at his wedding? Those were the only things that ran through my mind on that first day.
On the second day, I had to tell my son. I couldn’t fathom the right words. After I told him, he asked me point blank “Are you going to die?”. I have been thinking about that question a lot lately. Kids are so quick to just come out and ask the question that you know everyone is thinking. Can you imagine telling a friend that you have cancer and having them ask that question? Probably would never happen. But kids will. They want to know so that they can concretely put it into a box that makes sense. There is no box to have it make sense.
My cancer scares me. I have posts after posts of beautiful women that I have come to love, that are too young, too beautiful, too full of mothering left to do, that die. Every scan, test, strange pang in my body, I immediately wonder if it might be coming back. It is a tightrope wire between paranoia and health advocacy. ( I usually lean towards paranoia). Please just give me a little more time….
My cancer scares me into still living. I am one of those people that has a bucket list- not to complete in a certain amount of time, but just to know that I have the ability to do them. Because unlike most people, cancer survivors have a bucket list that includes the amazing things along with the everyday things. The high school graduation, the first date, the college search, the wedding date, growing old with the love of my life, seeing the grandkids. They are the ultimate bucket list. So the choice that I make is to live each day. And each day is not easy, but it is a gift that I have been given.
My cancer made me think about what I believed. Prior to my diagnosis, I had gone through life poking holes at religious institutions, beliefs, etc. This was such a stupid exercise in academic elitism, because in reality, it was just a way for me to never actually figure out what I believed. My cancer experience put me face to face with figuring out what I believed. I believe in the overpowering love of a God that loves me abundantly. He loves me simply because I am me. I spend time trying to listen and be obedient in his love, but rest peacefully in the fact that his love will always carry me through.
My cancer is my cancer. It drives me nuts when people compare cancers. They are all horrible. They are horrible because they are happening to you. Very early on, I decided that my cancer was not a “battle” or a “war”. Those two words denote winners and losers. My journey may be filled with life or could end in death, but in no way shape or form was I going to let cancer be declared the victor in the strange “battle”. It does not deserve that much credit.
My cancer and Little Pink sometimes do not mix. I am so thankful for the people that know me and support me in my own survivorship. The ones that point out that it is time for me to slow down, or take time for myself, or put myself first. The ones who are my biggest cheerleaders and tell me to keep pushing through when things are hard. The family that I have been so blessed with that love me and support me in every step of the journey. The people whose shoulders I cry on when I am worried about a test or have just lost another woman too soon.
My cancer does not make me any more unique or brave than anyone else. Faced with the same odds and choices you would choose to do everything that you can to be here for your kids/ family. There are thousands of women every day dealing with the same disease as me and making the same decisions to focus on getting healthy. It feels strange to have people say “how brave” it is. The real bravery comes from my family that has to love me through it, the sacrifices that they have made and the tears that they have shed.
My cancer is not my only story. I truly believe that we have all been put here to help God write his love story to the world. Cancer is not my only story. So today, on my 5 year anniversary of being diagnosed, I decided to keep writing my story- the day included a bucket list item, dinner with family, and a profound sense that my story is not done.
With the boy that has been the most amazing son. He has gone through the past 5 years and been supportive, accepting, encouraging, and all in for the craziness of his mother! And then spent a wonderful night having dinner with Jake, Josh, Kristie, Sam, and Anita! And so tomorrow starts the next five years. What is planned for tomorrow? The flying trapeze! Survive on!