In all honesty, this blog was meant to be written as my April blog. But for one reason or other it has been more difficult for me to write than I thought. The struggle came from trying to find a word that does not minimise the experience of anyone who has been through or is going through cancer. Although, the words ‘gift’ and ‘journey’ are often used in reflection from life’s major event, I do not think they truly convey the full extent of the impact the cancer experience can have on your life, both positively and negatively. So, as you read on, please replace those words as you see fit.
In April 2005, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This diagnosis was definitely a shock to a young mother in her mid- thirties with two young kids under 5 years.
Now 10 years on and living my ‘dream’ , I often wonder how life would be if I did not have the drastic turn of event 10 years ago!
Short of sounding like a cliche out of self-help books, I believed I needed the ‘C’ experience to reboot my life into a direction that gave me meaning, value and purpose.
Does it mean that I see the cancer as a gift? No! It was a very difficult 18 months in my life and for those around me that I do not wish upon anyone, let alone gift it to someone. However, I did numb myself from listening to earlier preceding messengers that were compromising my relationships, wellbeing and myself! The chance to reset my life’s direction, I am grateful for.
Often I get asked what I have learned from this ‘journey’ ( a word that I don’t like as it not as if I chose to take this path). The answer to the question is very clear to me.
This was revealed to me at the very early stages of my trip down the ‘C’ lane. It figuratively hit me between the eyes, 3 days post -mastectomy. No it was not the drugs. At that stage the drugs have worn off – no longer a morphine induced nauseous foggy head (always knew narcotics were never my friend), I had a very emotional time that day.
What hit me was not the commonly felt grief of the loss of a body part (though I do have huge empathy for those who have experienced this). It was the overwhelming emotional experience whereby I was fearful to accept the love and support of others. Their love and warmth, virtually felt like it cracked my heart open. I felt extremely vulnerable and fearful of the vulnerability. This is a very foreign experience for someone who has always soldiered on and took care of others and had multiple 5 and 10 year plans. This is where I wished a breast reconstruction could save me the pain.
At this stage, much of my socio-cultural conditioning was shouting out in my head – SELF-LOVE- what rubbish? Stop being selfish! It is not about you! What about your family? and the children? and on and on it goes! Here is the start of my chosen journey through cancer.
My path towards Self-love is one full of stumbles and new discoveries. It is like acquiring a new skill and letting go of many strongly held beliefs of my role as a woman, partner, mother and friend.
So far on this path, I have developed and live by two mantras or mottos.
“Selfish to be selfless“
The meaning of selfish for me is not about being mean. But to me it means to be discerning to what serves my life and be prepared to have the hard conversations if that is not the case.
” Live a life of love, truth and joy”
To live a life of service to myself, to my family and community with a sense of abundance, love, self compassion, kindness, joy and integrity.
Whether it was a ‘gift’ or a ‘journey’ or not, the cancer was definitely my life. It was painful on all levels but there is a choice on my part not to turn the pain into suffering, like all things in life!
So 10 years on and living my life, I breathe it all in…..Ahhhhh……..