Mother’s Day has passed and I found myself so happy for each minute I could be with my daughter and husband, play with them and tell them how much I loved them. Everything we did seemed magical. Even the weather turning cold, whipping our hopeful spring dresses around our bare legs as we tried to walk on the pier over the beach seemed heightened and funny. The blasts of cold, Pacific ocean wind were a new challenge to forge into, something that could be withstood, a force to overcome…we ran back to get warm, shivering and laughing.
I couldn’t imagine a day like that when I heard my diagnosis for the first time: stage 4 lung cancer. Thoughts of me quietly, slowly and painfully disappearing from my own life were in the forefront of my mind. I didn’t know what to expect, certainly not that seven months later I would be almost “cancer free” and living my life again. Yesterday I spoke with a friend, a cancer buddy. She’s my age, a mom, a person I got to know because she has cancer, too. We talked about her good scan results, when she will go back to work, new chances she is taking, her hug and chat with Steve Tyler after she sneaked past a guard at a filming of American Idol. In other words, living life again.
We are fitting back into our previous lives, but we are not the same. We have fought, cried, shared, trusted and became vulnerable and helpless in the face of the disease. We have also found more strength then we knew we had, met incredible people we wouldn’t have and forged a new worldview that links us closer to what is truly essential. We have battled, we have changed, we have learned.
Judy who blogs at motherswithcancer has posted a list of things she’s learned from cancer. This is a list that has been in my head but has not made it into words. I am grateful Judy has done the work of putting it down for us all. If you are newly diagnosed and scared; or have been fighting, surviving and thriving for a while with cancer, these words are true, hopeful and helpful. Here is her list:
- You’re stronger than you know or ever imagined. People ask me how I get through this, and the answer really is: I have no other choice. I can either crumble (and I do sometimes, but I’ve always been able to go forward again) or I can accept this as a part of my life and find happiness wherever I can.
- Faith is a beautiful thing. The times when I’ve felt closest to God are the times when I’ve had the easiest time with all of this. God really is with me all the time; it’s just that I don’t always accept or acknowledge it, or my anger against God is so fierce that I harden my heart against Him. He always finds a way through, though — sometimes through the grace of other people — and when that happens, miracles happen, even if they’re small miracles. I thank God for being with me through all of my troubles.
- Despite everything, life is beautiful. The sun is shining today, I have a wonderful family, I have amazing friends and a tremendous church family. I have many blessings in my life, even though I do have a sucky disease. The blessings in my life are part of what gives me strength.
- People can and will surprise you, both in good and bad ways. I try not to judge them for that anymore because, as some smart people have told me, “Wounded people wound people.” I am finding that I have more and more compassion for those you would think I would be railing at.
- Lean on friends, family members, church family. Lean on people. Let them know when you’re hurting. Many times, even just telling others your problems releases burdens that you may have.
- Related to number 2: God is great and can get you through anything. Also, miracles can happen. Never forget that.
- If you’re not feeling well physically, it’s difficult to feel well emotionally. I often forget that when I’m not feeling well physically. If I would remember that, I think things would be easier for me at those times.
- A prognosis is simply a history of what has happened to people before you who have gone through the same or a similar diagnosis. Prognoses are not set in stone. You may be the small percentage that lives way beyond a prognosis. My way of dealing with the prognoses that I got the first time I went through this? — honestly, I try to ignore them.
- Keep the faith, and keep your hope. They are both beautiful things and will help you in the difficult days of your illness or whatever burden you are carrying.