Survivor since 1981…
I was young and strong. At age 22, my life was spreading out before me. Synovial Sarcoma, which usually strikes teenage boys, is rare, and almost always results in the amputation of a leg, sometimes an arm . It was even less likely that a young woman would be afflicted. My tumor, the size of a man’s fist, was in my shoulder which, thankfully, couldn’t be amputated. Oncologists met in teams, and decided to hit me with everything they had, as the tumor was known to be aggressive, and metastasize to bone or lung. While I was never sick from the cancer, I now spent a day and a half of every month retching up the lining of my stomach. My skin was burned from radiation. I had no hair. Anywhere.
I have survived a quarter of a century now, blessed with two beautiful daughters, Madison and Shelby, that I was warned might not exist. My husband John appreciates the gift we have been given, as he was there from the beginning, rinsing out the bucket, and sitting quietly near me. At the age of 12 John lost his own father to cancer. Having them in my life is a gift.
Prior to my diagnosis, I was in a relationship that was wrong for me. I didn’t have the wisdom, or the courage to trust myself, and I allowed too much negative energy to control my life. I was made to choose between the relationship, and my family. I chose the relationship, and severed ties with people that I loved. I believe now that the guilt of hurting these people that cared about me deeply made me sick, that the ugliness and pain that I had shoved down inside of me literally made me ill. When I was diagnosed, I was instantly reunited with those that I had hurt, and forgiven. I was placed in a womb of love and healing. Positive, caring people surrounded and supported me, showering me with unconditional love. It is undeniable that not only our minds but also our hearts are connected to our bodies. Shutting people out made me sick. Letting them in made me well.
My personal goals have been shaped by the lessons that cancer has taught me. It is a lifelong process to pursue these goals. So many years later, I sometimes have to remind myself that just waking up every day is a gift. Letting the people that I love, and the people that love me, be my compass comes more naturally. I try to remember that even the smallest of kindnesses can have an effect on someone’s day, or even their life. Not only am I inspired to surround myself with authentic and true people, I work towards being one of them everyday. It is a challenge to keep these goals in sight.
Thankfully, I wake up everyday to these challenges.