It has been about eight months since I have been living with metastatic breast cancer. I had thought I had done a lot of reflection and growing up when I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. I thought I had a better understanding and appreciation of life. I thought I had learned the harder lessons. I was more patient, more insightful and more understanding of the suffering of my patients and my fellow human beings. Little did I realize though that there was still a long, long way to go and when metastatic breast cancer came knocking on my door (yeah I should have not answered) and I faced my mortality in a much closer and clearer way, I realized that there was a whole universe of understanding that had awaited me. When someone puts a time period on your life, mine being an average of 3 years, things get emotionally hectic. It is truly a hurricane that starts to swirl and one has to prepare for the landfall some day. I tried to sometimes close my eyes and not see, but the high winds woke me out of my pretend sleep. It is here it is now and there is no denying it. My life has an expiration date as well all do, except it’s etched in my retina and I can’t removed it from my field of vision. It’s there all the time.
When October rolls around, everything turns pink. There are reminders for mammograms, walks and races and pink socks and pink eggs. Heck some are sitting on pink toilets to fund raise. We are all different. However, they wish to spread awareness about a life threatening illness. I hope someday we will have a cure. I just hope for some life awareness in the month of October. The thought that “What would I change, if I got cancer?” Not just get a mammogram, and when it’s normal forget about living for a whole year.
I want women to see a normal mammogram as a reminder that they got another chance to live life on their terms.
That getting a normal mammogram is also a reminder to take care of you. Don’t wait to be retired and old to live life. I am not going to go over the need for mammograms and self exam, since you better be doing that, I will say, take an inventory of what is truly important in life. Make hard decisions. Get out of that sucky relationship. Let go of that idiot. Make changes. Travel. Spend time with your friends. Read a book that you so wanted to. Take a day off for you. Hire a sitter. Go for a date with your husband. Hang out with girl friends. Ready trashy magazines and catch up on gossip. Help someone. Love yourself. Get a haircut. Change the look. Sleep well at night. See a therapist. Stop smoking. Don’t drink too much. Back off from that recreational stuff. Ask for help. Whatever it is, do it. For me October isn’t just about breast cancer, it’s about life. Go live it. For as they say to me all the time, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone of us.
Reflect on your actions, meditate. Find your faith and what you believe in. Don’t just flow with life, command your flow and swim in the opposite direction if you need to. If you believe, you were born for a reason, go find it. It is somewhere in your universe that you are shying away from. Don’t spend time looking at what someone else has created, it’s your life, you have every right to create it in a way that suits you. Don’t endorse something that is not you. Don’t care for what haunts you later. Don’t embrace toxic people in your life. Do not feel guilty for taking care of yourself. Work hard and play hard. Retain your ability to enjoy and if you can’t find happiness, ask those who look happy. For God’s sake, don’t embrace a dull boring status quo that leads no-where. There is a path somewhere. If you are grieving, share, if you are hurting, share. Come out and tell your story and I promise someone will join you.
Cancer pushed me to find my path, it haunts me but I keep walking because now what I am doing is bringing me peace and joy. I make an effort every day to heal. Every day I make a choice to live some more. Life is as much about death as death is about life. They are related paradoxically and that is why I have more zest for life because I know that I will die. I see it up close and clearly every single day. To not die is to embrace life in present, to guard your thoughts and to hold on to peace within. Cancer deaths are usually prolonged and painful, I know that, but it’s not happening today to me and neither to you. I am building a life knowing I will likely die in few years. I could decide, it’s futile to go to my art class, or lose weight or eat healthy or even just burst out in laughter. I could be depressed about what is going to happen and what I have lost. Yes, that would be easy because those thoughts live inside my head and never leave. They are a part of my reality. I have to shake them off, every single day for these are powerful and vile thoughts that take me down a very painful and gloomy path and make it very hard for me to run back from them. So I just avoid them like the plague. I do grieve, every single day but my grief is mostly turned into action of healing and kindness towards myself and others.
With metastatic breast cancer, for me, every month is October, for me every day is today. What are you doing today?