Talking to the people around me, I get the sense that I am not the only one who is not sad to see the tail end of 2015. It has been a rough year for me, many of my friends and family. It has been the year that kept flogging us, demanding more from us, and just as we thought we had given all we had, more was demanded.
I have surprised myself many times this year with my ability to keep giving to the monster that is cancer. Many times I found myself on my knees, praying and begging for relief and as soon as it came, something else followed hitting harder than the last time.
However, as with everything in life, there are many dimensions to every experience. There is the side that gives you lessons and if you open your heart and mind you come out on the other end battered and bruised but a little better.
These are the 7 lessons I chose to take form the cancer experience:
From the time the doctor confirmed that there was indeed a cancer in my left breast, everything started to move in slow motion. No matter how I willed things to move faster, the wheels just slowed down.
I could not hurry the process, I had to learn to wait-LEARN being the operative word. I waited for the results from the battery of tests that followed. I had to wait 2 hours every time I went for chemo. I had to learn to be patient with myself when I could not do much after the surgery because forcing anything will be detrimental to my recovery. Even now I have to wait until February to know if I am cancer free. Patience is my new found virtue.
2.Don’t sweat the small stuff
This one goes hand in hand with ‘Letting go’. I would not describe myself as a control freak but I do like to have control of situations that affect me.
There were times when my food was not cooked my way, the house not as clean as I wanted it to be or even when my pillows were not fluffed as I liked them but I learned to appreciate that those things were done by people who care enough to do it for me. I learnt that the sky was not going to fall just because another person was in charge of my life.
This year I learnt to be ok with letting others take the driving wheel in matters that are largely my domain-my husband, my mother, my friends and even my children took turns making sure my life ran smoothly.
I have this annoying habit of doubting myself. The quest for perfection combined with the fear of failure lead to overthinking which result in more doubt. This self-doubt has me regretting some decisions I have made in the past and wishing I had listened to my gut more.
When I was handed the cancer diagnosis, I did a lot of reading and research on cancer treatments including the natural therapies (science calls it alternative therapies).I liked what I read and there was a lot of so called anecdotal evidence (read: scientifically unaccepted) from people who have used different natural therapies (naturopathy, homeopathy, nutrition therapy etc.) to cure and manage their cancers.
Those therapies spoke to me but I did not give them a try. Instead I listened to the noises and the fears that surrounded me and chose the conventional way. But every time I went for the chemo, I felt a little part of myself dissolving in the chemo cocktail. This dissonance led to frustration and unhappiness, not that there is anything joyful about getting chemotherapy but having a negative feeling about it does not help.
To cut a long story short, taking the decision to trust myself by switching to an integrated treatment left me feeling much better-physically and emotionally.
4.Make each day count
I am the queen of procrastination.If it can be done tomorrow, I’ll do it the day after. However cancer has taught me tomorrow is not promised. If it is in my power and means to do it today, I will do it-whatever is.
I made a promise to live more, love more, learn more, laugh more and consciously do everything to enjoy the human experience.
5 .Love is all around us
I will never forget the love and kindness my close friends showed me. Some left their homes, literally moving in with us for weeks, some came over to cook for us and other sent gifts of flowers, food, and other pretty things just so I know they are thinking of me.
This year I received more love than I ever imagined from the most unlikely sources. I had young children draw me sweet ‘Get Well’ cards and older friends ignore their aching bodies to come see me. Friends I have not been in contact with for years became regular visitors by my bedside. I felt love and compassion from total strangers whose connection was only on social media.
6. Do not be quick to judge
Yet others I thought will be constant were not. Under normal “circumstances” I would take offence at their silence and judge them mercilessly for not caring enough, but I choose to appreciate that cancer is a difficult diagnosis for the survivor and the people close to them. I choose to believe that my diagnosis was overwhelming so much it left them unsure of what to say, so they said nothing.
I learnt later that other friends were so shattered by the news of my illness they got physically sick and were admitted to hospital. These are the people that never called me or sent a message, not even once. Adversity opened my eyes to the reality that everyone is going through something and since we do not look like what we are going through there is no guessing how much load each person is carrying.
So until I have walked in their shoes, I have no business judging anyone or their silence towards me.
7. Be thankful
And finally, the biggest lesson I have learnt from doing the dance with cancer is gratitude. I am grateful for each new day as it carries the possibility of a better tomorrow. I am grateful for the love and kindness I have received from all corners, for the supportive friends and for my super supportive family. I am grateful to and for my husband who has been the roots that grounded me, the trunk that supported me and the branches that shielded me during this storm.
I am grateful to my God Jehovah for supplying me with more faith, hope and strength when I needed them. I am grateful I had His name to call.
Thank you dear reader,follower and friend for the encouragement,positivity and for taking the time to take this journey with me.I accept your kindness and your love.
And lastly, thank you cancer for the above lessons. I am not saying I have mastered them all but I am saying I am not the same person I was before you invaded my life. Now please, leave.
Thank you for reading and may your 2016 be full of love and all things positive.