Are you sitting down? Be kind, watch your tone, and listen, that’s what my mama taught me. I’ll do my best, yet no promises. Cancer, you came without any warning. Not a single sign that we were destined to meet. You took hold of me and shook me to the core. I was always in control, and I liked it that way. Quickly, you revealed that you were the boss of my being: mind, body, and soul all in your hands. A simple ache, pain, or cough reminds me of our lifelong commitment. For better or worse, you are always there. Although our relationship is rocky, you are a part of me forever. In fact, I consider you a friend. You changed me, and for that, I am grateful.
The Old Me
Going through the motions in this life, pushing my body and mind too hard, comparing myself, perpetual motion, way too much social media, and convinced my own mortality would never come. Healthy, happy, and untouchable in my mind. Forward-thinking to a fault and missing what is right in front of me. The need for more. To be more. Always longing for more. So many blessings I missed. It makes me sad. Counting down the days to the “next thing” and planning every step I took. Mentally drained and unbalanced.
And then, there was you. The day we met is one that I will never forget. The kindest radiologist called with the news. “Angie, you have breast cancer.” How is this possible? Way too young, too healthy, no symptoms, a long life to live. From that moment, I knew life would never be the same. You are persistent and often relentless. Not just physically draining, but mentally. Strength was my only option because you attack and move quickly. My tribe immediately stepped in to keep me sane. They often commented on my strength. Mamas, cancer gives you no other option. We are mamas, we fight, protect our babies, and push on.
When we met, I didn’t want anyone to know. No way was I going to be known as the “sick mom,” and I’ll be damned if people feel sorry for me. You were a deep, very dark secret I held in my soul. You made me feel weak. You created stress in my family that was unreal. You inflicted physical pain that pain medication wouldn’t touch. You changed my plans professionally. You were an embarrassment. You made me want to hide from mirrors to avoid seeing the scars left behind when my breasts were removed. Thanks to you, I will take a pill for the next ten years to prevent your return. Yes, you brought me to my knees in panic and anger. You don’t come without blessings, and I found them…quickly.
Eventually, your burden weighed me down, and I told everyone about you. You see, cancer was never about me. Sharing is the way I advocate for other women. I prayed for years for my “true calling” or passion to be known. Then we met, and it was crystal clear. You instilled a passion for fighting for other women, and the fire is brighter than ever. Cancer leaves vivid pictures in your mind. People’s faces are still so clear. The nurses that rubbed my leg during biopsies. The anesthesiologist that brought my husband a Diet Coke during a 7 hour surgery. The hugs in the operating room before surgery. The countless faces of women battling breast cancer. I see you. The faces of friends I have lost. Thank you for the daily reminder to be kind, listen, and be that light for others.
The New Me
So far from perfect, yet so much closer to peace. The overwhelming moments in life are put into perspective. My house is messy. I hug my kids a little longer these days. My steps are slower, and my calendar is not full. Things can wait. Time and intention with your people can’t. Life is beautiful. I slow down, take deeper breaths, and focus on beauty. It’s there, even in the darkest days. Find it. Let others be your hands and feet. Accepting help is a sign of strength. Before you barged into my life, I would do it all on my own. Today, a simple yes comes with ease. Why? It’s not about me. People are good and kind. Let them love on you. You would do the same for them. People often ask, “are you cancer-free?” My response never waivers, “only God knows.” Isn’t that the truth? We never know our true fate in this life, and our destiny is not in our control. I was living what I thought was my best life before you. In reality, you reframed my outlook on life. All the scars, pain, and fear humbled my heart and soul. Just when I feel like going back to my life before you, you creep back in to remind me that life is delicate. You will never leave, always hanging around. You are that friend that lingers and instills fear that we will meet again. Thank you for the blessings, yet feel free to stay at a distance. If you decide to meet up again, I will fight with all my might to again destroy you. One cell at a time.