Most people see cancer patients and notice the hairless features on their heads and face. A tilt of the head and a quiet empathetic sigh are the normal thoughtful gestures one might receive.
Chemotherapy in almost all cases is the culprit for the dramatic change of appearance. In fact, before I had chemo, I looked healthy, but I wasn’t. There was a physical, emotional and cellular war waging in my body. I chose to push through the heavy battle with the toxic doses of chemo to destroy the ugly with the ugly. Medically, I wasn’t qualified to decide in the matter of just a few days what would be the best course of action. I had left that up to my oncologist and other supportive staff that were at my care.
Sometimes I teeter between the decision to have taken the prescribed cancer treatments or not. Conclusively, I decided on Chemo, other cancer treatments, and a more integrative approach to healing.
As I look back on an experience that I could only describe as life changing, I am grateful. I learned this about myself:
1. I have a voice.
As a mother of 2, a peaceful kindergarten teacher and a natural pleaser, I struggled with my own voice in the first weeks of my diagnosis. The numbness and paralyzing emotions that came with the initial realization of cancer only exacerbated my inability to make my own decisions and speak for myself. I resolved to break the cycle and empowered myself to be my own advocate. I researched, asked questions and I visualized my children’s life without their mother and I became angry. I challenged the medical staff, I demanded explanations and reason. There were intense feelings that had came over me and I chose strength over helplessness. I chose to speak for the life that I still had left in me and for those I would leave behind, if I didn’t speak up. It was a determined voice that called to action the first steps to healing.
2. I am worth it and I am enough.
Of all the revelations that I had during this journey, the one reminder that still tells me how far I have come is knowing, “I am worth it.” The bubbling heat of empowerment surging through my weakened body created within me a foundation I began to stand upon. It could only be described as the “real” me. In this intensity, I knew what it was all for and what truly mattered at the end. All that I have experienced and all that I am now, led me to this exact moment in my life. This clarity would prepare me to move forward regardless of how much it was going to hurt. It didn’t matter because I am worth it and what I am, is enough to push through to the end.
3. I am stronger than I thought.
My support system helped me realize that. I believe with all my heart that I couldn’t have survived what I did without the unconditional love of my husband, joyful children, generous friends and self-sacrificing parents. They gave me the much needed rest, the ability to have an ugly cry, or the hard laugh I needed to get through the day. There is no doubt, my survival thus far was due to my support team.
However, the journey was still a lonely one. It was my body that was failing and my body that was suffering from the toxins. During those still and quiet moments, I carefully plotted my life after the treatments. I listed everything I wanted to do, who I was going to be, and how I was going to do it. I focused on hearing God’s voice and thanked Him for one more day. My gratefulness grew as did my strength. One day, I looked back and realized I had made it through. I survived and I am still here.
What things, mantras, or reminders did you tell yourself when your life was affected by cancer?