Your attitude, positive thoughts and prayers impact my life in a huge way, as I was reminded this past weekend.
Last week’s chemo went as chemo goes, bringing many of the usual side effects and a few bonus surprises. Luckily, by Saturday, I was on the upswing so my husband and I took the kids to find a Christmas tree.
As we walked among the trees, I was suddenly transported back in time. Six years ago, right before Christmas, I was diagnosed with cancer, healing from surgery (and sepsis) and about to start chemotherapy for the first time. Not only did the diagnosis unsettle everything I thought to be true in my life (i.e., that I could take good health for granted and actually make plans for the future), the treatment schedule upended our personal plans to spend the holidays with my family in Pittsburgh. In addition, I had already shipped all the gifts “from Santa” to Pittsburgh, and I was too overwhelmed to shop again for our one- and four-year-old boys, both of whom still enthusiastically believed in Santa Claus. I feared that would be my last Christmas with them, and it looked like it might be a disappointment all around.
But on this day, in 2013, wandering among the trees in the city lot, listening to my boys yell happily to each other and watching my husband measure various balsams and firs, I felt immensely grateful to be living and making preparations to celebrate another Christmas together.
After driving our tree home, I needed a rest so we draped ourselves over the sofa and watched Frosty the Snowman. Years ago, my psyche was filled with the words “…and we’ll have some fun now before I melt away.” (You can read about that here.)
This time, despite being tired, a different set of Frosty’s words slid happily into my heart:
“I’m all livin’! I AM alive! What a neat thing to happen to a nice guy like me!”
I was feeling lighter and coming out from under the chemo cloud.
On Sunday morning, due a confluence of circumstances, I went to church without the boys, and to a Mass at a church that I didn’t plan to attend. The priest began his homily talking about his seven-year-old niece and her dying father. Not an easy topic for me, but I hung in there while he made his way to his point. After that, he began to tell a story about a “dying stage 3 colon cancer patient.”
Those words put all my cells on high alert. As a stage 4 colorectal cancer patient, I don’t think of stage 3 as dying. In fact, I know both stage 3 AND stage 4 patients who are now cancer-free, so I don’t really think of either as dying. I thanked God that my kids weren’t there to hear this.
As the priest continued speaking, I went into fight or flight.
Because I was at that Mass and that church on a fluke, and because I strongly believe in the power of coincidence, I considered staying. Maybe God had a message for me if I waited.
The instant that thought occurred to me, it felt wrong. I didn’t need to stay and absorb another negative assumption that this man had to share. I needed to leave, and leave right then. Every fiber in my body said that was the right thing to do.
Mulling over this experience afterwards, I realized that I am both accustomed to people being supportive and focusing on what is possible, and that I rely on it. I can’t even let other viewpoints into my energy field.
Hearing those words and tone from this priest reminded me that there are still people who equate cancer with death, and I am lucky they aren’t in my circle. It reminded me that I am most fortunate to know that, not only can someone live with cancer, one can actually gain a different lease on life as well as get rid of cancer altogether. It reminded me that I am infinitely fortunate to know people who share that experience and / or perspective.
Maybe I didn’t need to hear whatever point the priest was trying to make. Maybe I was simply meant to gain a new appreciation for what is already in my life.
I thank you deeply for always infusing me with positive thoughts, energy, and prayers through your presence, emails, actions, notes and countless other connections. What we say and do can move each other in one direction or another. I feel like I am here six years later by moving one day at a time, one moment at a time, one prayer at a time. I could not do it without you and all the positive power you share. I am living. I AM alive. Thank you.
Love and blessings and all that is good,