With every storm, comes a clearing. While we wait for it to end, we have the choice to look for the beauty it might possess. Or, of course, we can focus on the damage that it has left behind. My personal storm was called Cancer. Cancer came to be my teacher. She taught me some of the toughest lessons I hope I'll ever have to learn. But there is no denying that her schooling came to remind me of exactly who I was... a Survivor.
In the face of adversity, there is always something to take away. A choice. An understanding. Perhaps a test of faith. When I reflect back upon my journey, I am easily reminded of the valuable lessons she taught me.
#1 The Power of a Positive Mindset
I had always thought of myself as a generally positive person. Little did I know that characteristic was going to get kicked into high gear. After I was over the initial shock of learning I had been misdiagnosed for over 8 years, I had to make a choice. Crumble to pieces... or get my armor back on and remember who the f#@k I was.
Of course there were days and episodes when I let Cancer suck me down the rabbit hole. Hell, I even had my whole funeral planned at one point, down to the music that would be played. But I never stayed in that place long. How did I get myself out of that rut when I found myself there? I reminded myself that there were others out there suffering much worse. I thought of the young children entering through my cancer center's doors who were also there to battle. I thought of those who were told the words, "there is nothing more we can do for you." I continually thanked the Lord and Universe for giving me options for recovery and hope. I kept my chin up, as best I could, at all times.
I purposefully conserved my positive energy. Unfortunately, this sometimes meant I had to shut people out. Those who secretly felt fear and pity towards me projected that energy onto me. For this reason, I often took myself to appointments and procedures alone. It was very important for me to keep high vibe energy around me at all times, like a shield I suppose. That amped up positivity is exactly what got me through those days and remains my motto today. I will always find the silver linings. I will always remember a positive outlook is the best choice, no matter the situation.
#2 The Time is Now
I don't care how old you are... should've, could've, would've is a yucky feeling. And at some point in life, you will be faced with regret about the things you wish you had done. Cancer did that for me. It lit a fire within. It propelled me forward. It gave me permission to act upon my ideas instead of just dreaming about them. Cancer encouraged me to be a bigger risk taker. To change things up from the same old, same old and to follow through with my inspiration and nudges.
We all get stuck waiting on "one day." But that "day one" has to be now. Tomorrow is promised to no one. No amount of money or good health can protect you from your destiny.
I switched grade levels in my teaching career. I booked solo flights to other states where I would spend time with complete strangers learning new skills in my craft. I got that tattoo I always wanted. I took my first tropical vacation out of the country.
Just some of things I would likely have never done if my life weren't uprooted by the claws of Cancer.
#3 Birthdays are for Celebrating
Tomorrow, on July 20th, I will turn another year older. I will be celebrating my 46th birthday. Birthdays were never really a big deal to me... until I became a cancer survivor.
When you have faced an illness, accident, or predicament that has forced you to consider the possibility of death, birthdays take on a whole new meaning. They are no longer just a sign of getting older. They now become a reminder that you are alive and thriving. They are the cause of gratitude. Birthdays are greeted and welcomed when they arrive each year. A privilege denied to many.
I would be a complete liar if I said that aging doesn't bother me. I look in the mirror. I see the sagging skin gravitating downward. I lift my cheeks to temporarily remove my jowls and reveal what my face used to look like. I spend money on creams that won't magically plump my skin back into place as they claim. My bones stiffen and make noises that remind me I am no longer limber and agile. My bedtime gets earlier and earlier and I wake with the sun at the start of each day. Daily proof that time is in fact marching on and my body is becoming older.
Thankfully, I had a bit of an epiphany of sorts when I turned 45 last year. I thought to myself... most humans live well into their 80's or 90's these days. That means, If I am fortunate enough to continue on in good health, this could literally be the half-way marker of my life. 45 didn't seem so old when I thought about from a new perspective. It also brought a huge smile to my face to realize I could still have another 4+ decades to go!
Bring on them years! I'll take 'em!
For me, it was a cancer diagnosis and several years of reconstruction. For others it may be a mid life crisis or death of a loved one. But why wait for tragedy or challenges to arrive? Live now. Really live now. Book the trip. Change directions in your career. Buy that toy you have been eyeing up for years. Don't wait for permission. Don't wait for the right time. The time is NOW.