9/26/2008

A Light Shining Bright



I remember the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer like it was yesterday. Time stood still. It was that kind of silence where you wonder if the world has suspended spinning. When told by my doctor, I did not ask to have it repeated. I did not want to hear that word again stated associated with me, my name, my body. Any time was too soon to hear it again!

But the next day, there it was again, stated in relation to me. I started hearing it over and over again, like some kind of conspiracy to desensitize me to the word. I associated it with death and dying and wanted no part of that. I was always upbeat and positive. Very quickly, I tried to change my understanding of the word and what it meant to me. I wanted many more tomorrows so I began to envision cancer as merely a journey, a mountain to hurdle. I started calling it, affectionately the “C” word.

One of the best ways I found to change my automatic response to the diagnosis was to begin work on my dream list. I would contemplate, just as seriously as I would listen to the doctors update me on my treatment, my desires that were, to date, unfulfilled. I added to the list and kept it by my bed stand so that on days, when I could not make it out of bed, I could still look at it, reflect and yes, joyfully add to it.

The first few months of treatment, the list had on it such trivial items we take for granted as read a magazine article, or answer the phone and talk to someone about something besides the “C” word. Even a trip to the mailbox made my list of dreams unfulfilled. And slowly but surely, I began to proudly cross items off that list. One by one they were removed and replaced by others more challenging. Now the dream feat was a trip to the mailbox, a visit to the grocery store and even reading a book. I remember walking into a drug store to pick up a prescription. The man behind the counter said my name as if I was a celebrity. He knew my husband by appearance, but had never met me. He was so excited to meet me. The pharmacist said he thought he had heard my name every week for months. I think he was right; we gave them way too much business! The wonders of chemotherapy can only be experienced with additional medications to help curb the side effects!

This growth I experienced was partially due to focusing on reaching attainable goals. Too often, we strive for the impossible and thereby, set ourselves up for disappointment. I did not know how this would all end, my story of cancer treatment, but it gave me inspiration for the next day as I conquered more and more items on the list. It kept me positive, being true to who I am so that the cancer was not destroying the heart of me, my spirit. Eventually, I strung quite a few next days together to tell a story, this story, of accomplishment, of recovery.

I am a survivor that has traveled a long hard journey. May you start your list now and learn from a survivor, there is no time like the present. Do not wait till you are faced with a disease and feeling vulnerable. My new light, that of a survivor, is shining bright. It is called hope. May it shine on you!
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