Did you just get that terrifying diagnosis? Is your hair falling out, completely gone, or coming back in a bizarre stubble that has you guessing about what the color and texture will be? Are you counting the months until your next mammogram, praying for good news? Maybe you just got some holiday tats and are celebrating with a few rounds of radiation.
It happened to me, too. I got my diagnosis on New Years Eve 2013, and woke up on the first day of the new year unsure how to start fresh and hopeful. This holiday season, I want to extend five wishes for everyone in our situation.
My first wish is that you have the comfort of a roof over your head, walls that keep out the rain, and a window for the sun. That you find more comfort by wrapping yourself in your favorite soft blanket and eating food that tastes good. That you are not too hot or too cold and have comfy clothes that feel like jammies. That you feel safe in the space you’re in, with medicine that can cure you or make the pain go away. That sleep comes easily and leaves you feeling refreshed. That your mind takes a break from all the what-ifs and allows you to focus on the right-nows.
These blessings are more than many people in the world enjoy, and being mindful of them is comfort in itself.
Cancer was my chance to let the world shower its love on me. I continually found myself amazed at the compassion and generosity I experienced, even from strangers, who found out about my cancer and stepped in with loving support. My mother-in-law’s friend, Doris, sent me an inspiring book, my sister’s friend sent me gifts and cards, and strangers around the world wrapped me in prayer. I steeped in the warmth of that love, and my wish is for you to feel it, too.
Unlike people, love never dies. It lives on in ways we can’t anticipate. This season, I pray that love enfolds you and fills you with the realization that your love, too, will live on, no matter what happens.
A New What-If
My third wish is to redefine the cancer “what-ifs.” What do I mean? The usual cancer what-ifs: What if I die? What if I lose my hair? What if I lose my breasts? What if it spreads? What if we can’t afford care? What if I lose my job? What if my husband can’t take the burden? What-if (fill-in-the-blank)?
What if we let go of all of that pain, sadness and anger, just for a minute, knowing we can take them back anytime. What if, for an instant, we let joy, love, hope, and happiness take over?
My mom’s mantra was to count my blessings. They are everywhere, she said, and if you look, you will find them, too. Counting blessings is free, and available to all every minute of every day.
My wish for you this season is for your blessings to overwhelm your shadows, for your good “what-ifs” to overcome your bad, for you to be overflowing with peace and contentment.
My fourth wish for joy. At an assisted living facility last night, I watched a toddler take a face plant on carpet that had probably seen it’s share of nasty spills. The little boy got up, flashed a smile, and accepted a round of applause. Meanwhile, tweens sang carols next to a beautifully-lighted tree, and everyone seemed to be having fun. I stood in a corner taking it all in, reveling in joy.
This holiday, I wish you moments of joy and the wisdom to recognize them in whatever weird cancer disguise they may take. May you experience it, recycle it, treasure it, recollect it. May it give you strength when you need it during the other parts of your journey.
Finally, I wish you faith. God is always there, no matter what. During cancer treatment, I learned that my attempts at understanding the divine plan were futile, and surrendering those attempts helped me endure.
For me, the fear of leaving my daughter without a mom and husband without a wife was the hardest part of cancer. I lived in a rural area and had to travel for every chemo treatment, surgery and radiation. Each time I left the house, I felt the abandonment, the what-if-I-never-come- back feeling. How will they be?
I remember when the realization flooded over me that I’m not in control. All of us go when God says we do, not a minute before and not a minute later. So, I let it go, and things got easier.
I stopped obsessing over the house, washing the laundry, and freezing lasagnes for dinner. I couldn’t make enough lasagnes to last forever and my daughter and husband usually went out for a pizza anyway. To my horror, I discovered that my husband was calling our local deli in the morning to order sandwiches for Lauren’s lunches and picking them up on the way to school. He called it streamlining. In a moment of meditation, I understood that I’m not in control and that’s okay.
My holiday wish for you is that you’ll tap into faith, whatever that looks like in your life, and draw peace and strength from it. Trusting in a higher power helps me heal and gives me comfort, and I wish the same for you.
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Breast Cancer News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to breast cancer.