For everything that cancer took away from me, an entire spring and summer stolen, confidence in my longevity on this earth and the battle wounds I am left with that some days have me feeling like a circus act, there are some crucial survival skills that cancer DID leave me with.
Given the choice I would take it all back. I'm not going to pull that bull**** card that it was all meant to happen to prepare me for other things in my life. I won't apologize for calling that one like it is. Cancer kills – it almost killed me at stage 3. It could still try to. So no, given the choice, I would put me head back in the sand if it meant I wouldn't be at these odds and my family wouldn't have these odds as well.
This "journey" I would have done with out. But for what it's worth, these are the five things I have learned and perhaps others who have walked that tight rope might agree that they have learned as well:
1. We are tough b******. We may have started out as the most sympathetic and nurturing people out there, but we've hardened. It's hard not to. Many of us have dragged our sorry asses to work with drains hidden under our clothes. Some of us have been on medications and chemo that would make you feel like you had drank a bottle of gasoline and then lit yourself on fire with a match. We have nerves that no longer exist. Scars that would make you cry. My kids still comment when they catch me running across the hall to the shower. I don't have complete feeling in my left leg, so no, I don't have sympathy for the sniffles, the stress of what to wear, or anyone that complains about which inclusive resort to take their family to. In fact, I may be a little tough on my family. Maybe that makes me a b**** or maybe that will make them tough b****** too and they'll be able to put the big girl pants on when life throws it's curve balls.
2. When you get our trust, DO NOT take that lightly. If we actually let our guard down and show you that we need your help, please take us seriously. Don't let us down. We've come to you to ask you to take this load off of us. This is our desperate plea even if we don't come off that way. We are asking for your help for a reason. We are drowning, and we don't know where else to turn. We've already lost all trust in what we knew...our bodies, perhaps our doctors, treatments...we need you, and we trust you so we expect you to do what other's could not. If you say you are going to do something, follow through. If you are taking something off our plate, make it happen, We need you.
3. Weeding the garden. We will have to do this at some point even well after our initial diagnosis and treatment. We may be long into recovery and find, we have changed and we cannot have the weeds left in our garden. This cancer thing is for the rest of our life...always waiting to pop so if you cannot understand our defects, our scars, our new way of living life post cancer. Then we have to pluck you out. I've had enough toxins in my body and have no time for those who 1. don't get this and 2. are too self-absorbed to empathize or just too weak to be able to handle "big girl" life.
4. No. I did not know how to use these simple two-letter little word until I was diagnosed. No is not meant to be a threat. It is not meant to hurt your feelings. But we have to practice the art of saying no when it is not conducive to our wellbeing. No, I can't do that because I am back at the oncologist for the umpteenth time to see what that spot in the scan might mean. No, sorry. I am being poked and prodded tomorrow, I can't help you. I need to help myself. No, I just cannot because this is my time right now and that's not going to work for my wellbeing and frankly, I deserve me time that doesn't involve a cancer wing, hospital or scan center.
5. Moving on This is probably the hardest thing to learn because, at least for me, at an advanced stage of cancer, I have to keep going back every 90 days. But I have finally learned how to move on from the first day through the 89th day, I am not thinking about cancer anymore. Just like I am not thinking about the other things in my life that have tried to bring me down. I don't have time for that. I only have time for right now, and every right now that I receive is a blessing. So, I continue to move on and I continue to learn how this applies to every aspect in my life. This is not working for me...move on. This person is not who I thought she was...move on. This project/work is causing more stress and turmoil than it's worth...time to move on.
I am a changed person and that may be for good and for bad. But here's the thing, I am always moving forward trying to better than yesterday, trying to enjoy one more day that I have been given cancer-free. It has been a long arduous "journey,” one that if I could turn back time, I would not take back. But given that I have no other choice, I will keep keeping on and sorry, I might not be sorry if I offend you.