Fourteen years ! That is how long I have been cancer free. A lot has happened in those fourteen years. A lot of life… to quote a favorite song of mine from Jimmy Buffet – “some of it magic, some of it tragic, but I’ve had a good life along the way.”
Lying in the hospital bed fourteen years ago after having a double mastectomy, I remember the anxiety and the pain and the uncertainty of it all. It weighed me down,.It had me shallow breathing and struggling to get through each hour. The first year was filled with doctors appointments and more surgeries and physical and mental recovery. It was hard and yet it was beautiful to be surrounded by my loving husband, our family and friends. I quickly realized by sitting in a lot of waiting rooms that not everyone was so fortunate. Many sat alone and many didn’t have the resources or support to help them heal. I met a lot of incredible women that year. Despite rough circumstances they were clad in pink and ready to fight. A club none of us wanted to be a part of yet somehow it was a gift that you were. Warriors fighting our way back to normalcy even if that normal was severely altered. I met ladies who didn’t make it and others who are still going strong, living their best life.
I kept a journal during that time and I wrote down lessons I learned from having breast cancer. A portion of that journal was featured in the book “ If I Only Had One Chance to Tell You… Inspiring and Encouraging Real-Life Stories” by Ana-Christina Wadle. I share these lessons with you today in hopes that they encourage you to live your best life too. Having cancer changed my perspective. I am beyond grateful to have had these past fourteen years where I got to see my kids grow up and be a part of all the chaos and fun. Life is precious, let’s enjoy the gift that it is.
My life lessons from battling breast cancer…..
My husband has taught me the power of loving someone unconditionally. He has proved to love me for the essence of me and not just the physical me. This has helped me handle the insecurities that I have about my scars and the breast – disfiguring that came with my mastectomies.
I have learned that 90% is still an A. I don’t have a guarantee that I will be here tomorrow, so I strive to pursue excellence in all areas of my life; but I no longer seek perfection.
I have chosen to go deep versus wide. By this, I mean that I am striving to go deeper with my relationships and time commitments. Gone are the days that I say yes to everyone and everything. I choose carefully what I say “ yes” to.
I learned to forgive others. Forgiveness is powerful – if it is withheld, it damages. If it is granted, it heals.
I learned I am more effective in ministry when I share my struggles. I never want breast cancer to define who I am; it is just part of my story.
I choose to live a life of joy despite my circumstances. True joy comes from knowing the Lord and seeking a relationship with Him.
I hope you can take something from what I have learned and apply it to your daily life. Enjoy the journey!
I sat in the parking lot of the post office on a cold winter morning. I could see the long line from where I sat in my car and I was feeling grumpy about the anticipated wait. I had a heavy heart. Grey skies loomed overhead replacing the normal bright blue skies of Colorado. The whole day felt grey and heavy.
I was awakened that morning to alarming texts from friends who were sending out prayer requests for one of our friends who is battling cancer. The outlook felt grim. Then I received an email from another friend telling me of a friend’s child who was complaining of a stomach ache which turned into surgery which turned into another cancer diagnosis. These are wonderful families and I just felt plain sad on their behalf.
I walked to the front door of the post office and while opening the door dropped several of my envelopes. A young man stepped over the fallen mail without offering to help. My grumpy meter was rising by the second – that was until I got inline.
In front of me was an elderly man and in front of him was a young mom with her little baby. The elderly gentleman began playing peek a boo with the child and before you know it, the baby was laughing hysterically. You know what I mean, those baby laughs that are so full of joy they make everyone around them begin to smile and laugh too. We all were laughing until our sides hurt. We even clapped for the baby when she and her mom were leaving, and of course, on cue, she blows us all baby kisses goodbye. My spirits were lifted by the laughter of this sweet child and the response from all those around me.
The lady behind me started crying. She apologized for the tears and told me her husband had passed away earlier this year and she felt guilty for feeling joy and uncontrollable laughter. I gave her a hug and told her I was so sorry for her loss. I also probably over spoke and told her I thought it was ok to have joy. Her husband wouldn’t want her to be sad forever. She hugged me again. I left the post office feeling lighter and as I walked outside, the sun began shining through the clouds. I stopped and prayed for my friends who were deep in hardship. I prayed they would feel joy, that they would be able to laugh even when things were hard.
I think sometimes we are afraid to laugh while we are experiencing sorrow because someone might think our pain has passed or that our sorrow isn’t deep. Laughter seems off limits or inappropriate to shine where there is the darkness of grief and sorrow. My Christian faith tells me that because I place my hope in Christ, I can grieve differently from those who have no hope. There are times when grief will have a tight grip on us for sure, life can be brutally hard at times. Laughter gives us permission to say – grief may have a hold of me but all of the life has not been choked out of me. I think laughter lessens the sting that sadness can bring. It is a gift to feel joy.
Let’s all be people who give each other permission to laugh, to experience joy even when our world circumstances say otherwise. Let’s receive our joy from the Lord and encourage one another in this journey called life.