One year ago today, I learned I had two large masses in my ovaries. I was already a mass of anxiety about losing part of my colon. Funny how something sounds so terrible and then you hear even worse news…your mind keeps adjusting to the traumatic information. Rearranging it in some bizarre fashion so that you can attempt to process it.
At this point, I’m processing everything that happened by trying to release the painful experience but keep the lessons.
First, a quick update on how I’m doing:
Physically, I can’t complain. Tests have all been great. However, ovarian cancer is a scary one (I don’t Google it, no way) so I’m left with that nagging “what if” feeling that all cancer patients live with.
I still have to pace myself but I’m feeling pretty strong. Except for some minor neuropathy and fatigue, I have zero side effects from the chemo. I feel VERY lucky.
Mentally/emotionally, doing well. Truthfully, 2014 is a blur. Between the drugs and the trauma, I don’t remember a whole lot. I consider this a blessing.
In fact, I’m starting to consider the entire thing a blessing. Sounds wild, right? But I’ve been sick enough to know that there is always a lesson that goes along with an illness. So many lessons from this doozy but here is my current list:
1) I learned how to be vulnerable. Like every other woman in America, I like to appear strong and perfect (ha!) – I got my shit together!! Yeah! Look how good I look in this Facebook photo that I chose out of 200 shitty ones! (Ok, I still do this, I’m a vain hippie, what can I say.) Man, it was difficult for me to share my story with everyone. But knowing I could be gone soon changed everything – I had nothing to lose. Sharing my ugly hospital photos? My Debbie Downer moments? My sadness? My fear? My freak outs? Not only was I not JUDGED for it, I was CELEBRATED for exposing them. Major eye opener. Share your pain, my friends. Share your pain. You never know who you’ll be helping by letting your shadows see the light. You’ll definitely be helping yourself, that’s for sure.
2) I learned that it’s stupid to be afraid. I hide them well but I have many fears. Not physical ones – I’ve jumped out of a plane and scuba’d with sharks – mine were mental. What if I succeed? What if I fail? What if I made the wrong decision choosing career over family? What if I have another failed relationship? What if I have too little work? What if I have too much work? What if I make an ass of myself on social media? Nothing like knowing you might die – and die soon to make those fears recede. Now I tell myself: it’s all okay. It’s unfolding as it should. Trust myself and the Universe. Have faith that every moment – whether I judge it to be bad or good – is happening exactly as it should and will lead me to precisely where I’m supposed to go.
3) I learned how to surrender. Sandberg says we should lean in. I lean so far in, I fall into an abyss in front of me. I need to learn how to lean back. Surrendering is not the same as doing nothing. Doing nothing serves it’s purpose at times. Surrendering is linked to receiving – they are both actively allowing things to come to us instead of reaching forward – AND ACCEPTING THEM. Surrendering is much more challenging (for me) than receiving or keeping the faith. It requires taking Good moments and Bad moments and allowing them to wash over you without shifting in thought or perception. The imagery that comes to mind is a flower that is hit with the wind and rain – it bends to the wind and absorbs the rain. The flower stem doesn’t bitch about it nor reach for the rain or crack from the wind – it just rolls with it. Accepts the gift from nature and keeps on growing.
So much about cancer is fighting but for me, it was about surrendering and receiving – something I’m also not good at but was forced to learn this past year as well. It’s not succumbing as I thought in my younger years – it’s about yielding. Driving on the Road of Life and not fighting it when my car is suddenly shuttled to a new street. Before I’d try to get back on the original road – that’s where I’m supposed to be dammit! Now, I get it. Getting upset and trying to go back is a waste of time. Now I just keep driving on the new road and see where it’s taking me.
This new path I’m on, I admit, is scary since it was so unanticipated. And I like to plan! But this time, instead of struggling for months – or even years to reconcile the hand I’ve been dealt, I’m trying to roll with it. Even if the outcome is dire within a few years (which it won’t be), I’m trying to make peace with that too. If it’s my time, it’s my time. Being fearful is a waste of energy. And there are so many other things I want to do with that energy besides live in fear! Spend time with my loved ones, watch my baby bunnies grow up into amazing human beings, TRAVEL! Delve into my life’s work so that I can leave behind a legacy. That’s what’s about it for me now. So cliché but it’s really about making every moment count. I can do that. I can do anything. And so can you.