How’s that for an entré? Good? No? Well, I’m not sure where to begin after disappearing for the past few months.
How have you been? Have a good summer? I have missed you all. A LOT.
To tell you the truth, it has taken a boatload of courage, determination, perseverance and focus to sit down and write, but here I am – obviously – writing.
Golly, I have a ton to say. However, I became a bit insecure a few weeks ago when I was readying (prodding may be a better word!) myself to come back. Okay, to tell you the honest to goodness truth, I worked myself into a full-on tizzy. “Who on G-d’s green earth really gives a s**t about what you have to say?” I asked myself – day in and day out. You know what happened? These thoughts reinforced my emotions which resulted a writing paralysis. Nice, right?
Anyway, today a strong, not-taking-no-for-an-answer voice in my head said, “Sit your a** down and WRITE. It is TIME.” So – despite my fits and starts and my best efforts at procrastination – this is how I arrived here. Today. On this FIVE year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis.
Yes, you read that correctly: five years ago today, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a/k/a FBC (f-bomb breast cancer). Five years. Breast Cancer. WTF?
For each of the preceding years, I have done something incredibly physical as a FU to FBC. You see, on October 15th, 2010, cancer took my health from me, so on this date each and every year, I decided to change my dread of this “diagnosis date” by doing the opposite of sick and instead engaging my physical, emotional and intellectual strength. So,
- On my 1st Cancerversary, I ran a 1/2 Marathon.
- On my 2nd Cancerversary, I hiked with girlfriends 5+ hours to the top of Inspiration Point in Santa Barbara.
- On my 3rd Cancerversary, I did the same hike with the same girlfriends.
- On my 4th Cancerversary, I was recovering from a total hysterectomy. (If you want to learn more, please click to read about it. I don’t feel like rehashing it at the moment.)
On this malignancy milestone date – in addition to going on a rockin’ challenging hike combined with an I’m-glad-when-it’s-done weight workout – I decided to sit down with a cup of matcha green tea (yes, I still drink it everyday!) and reflect on the incredibly powerful and utterly life-changing lessons that came from my experience. My top three are as follows:
- Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. This is by far the most important lesson that I have learned. I remind myself, my family, my friends – anyone who will listen, really – of this lesson on a daily basis. Recently, I was brought to my knees by something quite unexpected. Instead of going to that place of “I’m fine” and “I can handle this,” I reached out to an old friend and asked for help. Even though I was a teensy bit (ok A LOT) nervous, good gracious did it ever feel good and now I find myself on yet another path of healing and self-discovery.
- Look for the Silver Lining. Many of you have heard me say this over and over and over (and over) again. Well, the only reason that I blabber on about it is because this philosophy is how I actually live my life. Literally. And the reason that I live my life this way is because it works. Everyday. Whether I’m sitting in traffic or dealing with any other of life’s curve balls (that often have a tendency to hit me like a wrecking ball directly in the nose), what I know for sure is that Pain is Pain. We are all going to have s**t in life. It is inevitable. It is reality. But – now, here is the good part! – what I know from the bottom of my toes to the top of my head is that silver linings provide the balance, perspective and hope to get me/you/us through anything – and I do mean ANYTHING – that life sends our way!
- FBC is not my identity. Instead of moving from treatment into recovery and into life after cancer, I went right into writing a book about cancer. And then editing the book about cancer. And then designing the book about cancer. And then selling the book about cancer. And then promoting the book about cancer. Oh and then I had to go and write another book about cancer. And promote that book about cancer. For the past 4 years, I have been caged in on the breast cancer gerbil wheel and – until this summer – did not know how to get off! Every time I thought about distancing myself from cancer, I felt guilty. “Well, I need to go to this event,” I thought. “It is important to speak at this event,” I was told. Well, you know what I realized? My guilt was a figment of my imagination. FBC is not who I am. It does not define me. It has been a big part of my life experience, one that has brought many silver linings into my life, BUT FBC has also already taken too much time, energy, emotion, and body parts (!!!) from me and my family and my friends. It doesn’t get any more. Period.
There is an assumption that “after 5 years, you are cured.” This is not the case, unfortunately. “Five years is quite an arbitrary number,” says Julia Rowland, the director of NCI’s Office of Cancer Survivorship. “For some cancers, if you haven’t had a recurrence in two years, your rate of recurrence drops considerably. For others, like breast cancer, you can have a recurrence at any time.” Yup. Big fat bummer.
But the silver lining is that at this point in my life, I am not one to become mired in numbers or statistics or prognostication. First of all, it is mind numbing. Secondly, focusing on numbers doesn’t do a damn thing. Thirdly, I just don’t have time. N.O.W. is time to focus on living and finding joy in life.
So, from this point on, I am committing to myself (and you, dear readers!) that October 15th is now my second birthday. Does that mean that I can have a piece of cake? Ummmmm, YES!