I am a member of a group on facebook which is for breast cancer survivors. For a while I didn’t frequent there, I think because I wanted to put the whole difficult journey behind me. Then things happen, scares, new diagnosis of loved ones, and I fear that my distancing is cockiness. I know intellectually it isn’t, but I find myself feeling the need to be with and relate to other pink warriors, sisters. A few days ago I learned that someone I love, someone who is important to me and plays a significant role in my life has metastatic breast cancer. Humbling. How was I so fortunate to still be in remission 5 years later?
I went through the breast cancer journey single. My mother played a huge part in my care. I had been dating a guy for a few months. The weekend after my lumpectomy (5 days) he was upset that I wasn’t going to drive 2 hours to be with him. Um, really? He did me a huge favor and ended the relationship online. Hero! At the time I felt so sad, hopeless, but as I walked through the daily challenges of infections, hematomas, seromas, cellulitis and for me the long 1.5 year of reconstruction, I became aware of how fortunate I was to have him end the relationship that, at that time, I hadn’t the strength to. I think in many ways it was easier going thru this single. I sometimes hear the demands and disappointments from others with partners, husbands and I think to myself, My God, I had it easy compared to this! Ever hopeful it is to hear of the partners who walk with you through the journey from start to finish. I think we are all deserving of that.
I’m not feeling well, fighting a cold. Perhaps this has made me extra sappy or emotional, and trust me when I say the last thing I need is to be MORE emotional. Anyway, like every other morning I logged on to read the posts. Typically each day I will read one that brings tears to my eyes, smiles to my face, hope to my heart. Today as I read and heard the courage, the posts, they drew more than teary eyes. Tears were falling down my cheeks, the salty taste of some fell into my mouth. I have often said that cancer is a journey I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade my personal growth for the world. As I read the posts, many, too many, who have just been diagnosed, many who have had the good fortune of remission, I thought how beautiful it is to see such support, such love to one another, having never looked in each others eyes. I sometimes just read, sometimes “like” the post. Lately I’ve been responding, replying, sharing my experience. It is so healing to help another on this difficult trek. I learn from these women daily, and I learn from myself. Going through it you just do what you have to, what’s in front of you. Now, five years out, looking back, I think how the hell did I get through it? So often I hear “I hope I don’t cry”, as if it were something to be ashamed of. I think the opposite. I think tears are evidence of strength, even if we feel we are at our weakest, cannot move forward. It is a form of acceptance of our powerlessness, our need to help. It is release of the pain that consumes us, and proof that we exist. No matter our circumstances, good or bad, we exist and we exist beyond the pain. Sometimes it’s just hard to find our way through it. This is where there is strength in numbers. If we choose to allow ourselves to be even more vulnerable than that which has us on our knees weeping. It takes courage to succumb to a painful reality and even more to defy it, fight it, move forward. At least that is how I feel. Moving forward has been the hardest for me. Accepting the loss of young loved ones, the struggles that they and I encounter. Life isn’t always easy. But even in the darkest of days, the smallest gesture of kindness can offer hope and strength to face that one day and perhaps? Perhaps another.
To me the best of humanity is sharing, helping each other. Waking up to “How can I be of help in the world today” rather than “What is today going to bring ME,,,, please bring me THIS, THAT”. Sharing, caring, helping, I think many times some of us, myself included, dismiss the power, the impact that kindness can offer another. We know not what another person is faced with at that moment. Sometimes just a smile to me was enough to carry me another few hours through the challenging times in my life, still does.
Today I still have challenges to face. Today I sometimes greet them with weakness, a desire to give up because it is too overwhelming, but then other days I stand strong and know that I can do this. I just can’t expect myself to do it all alone. For some of us, reaching out and asking for help from others is very hard. It humbles us. I have to remind myself that in doing so, in letting another help me, I am allowing them the opportunity to feel good about themselves with their kindness, help, gifts of giving of themselves. Even still, not easy for me.
I’ve been told on numerous occasions that my blogs are sad, that the subject matter is sad. Well…sometimes life is sad. Sometimes our life circumstances, challenges, sorrows need to be shared. If we look at only the fun, the good, the happy in life well, I don’t think we are experiencing life at its fullest. I just don’t.
Today I am grateful for my health, for this day, for the food in my frig, water in my well. I am grateful that I am here carrying the strength of yesterdays journey, and hope for today, for tomorrow. If wishes were horses we would all ride… if only everyday could be this way.