Finding Balance One Year Later
Last year on this day I was told I had breast cancer. I kind of knew it was coming. But I was really hoping I was wrong. I could never imagine how that moment would make me feel and I still can’t explain it. But I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the worst moment of my life - that came later – because I only had a small idea of how my life was forever changed.
See, when they called to tell me I had cancer, they really didn’t have many other answers yet. I remember asking questions; What stage is it? When will I have surgery? What’s next for me? I was talking to the radiologist and he didn’t have any information besides the limited results of my biopsy. He said I would be receiving calls shortly to start setting up appointments with an oncologist.
So I just waited. This is one of the hardest parts about being diagnosed. The waiting. I wanted all of the answers. I wanted to get started. I wanted to get it over with and move on. I didn’t realize that the first phase of cancer treatment is discovery. This learning, understanding, and planning takes time. And it also takes a toll. Without even starting the actual treatment, I felt the effects; I was sick to my stomach; jacked-up on my anxiety; sleepless from fear; and panicked about the unknowns.
When I heard those initial words, “It’s cancer” I didn’t fully comprehend them because I couldn’t. It was during these weeks of waiting, discovery, and finally, understanding, that I had the worst moments of my life; moments that were so dark and painful I didn’t want to live anymore.
But that wasn’t an option. Regardless of my diagnosis, my life still moved forward. I had become a cancer patient in an instant, but I was also still a mom, wife, employee, friend, daughter, and sister. I still had to make dinner, go to work, take my son to appointments. My body kept going through the motions, unable to stop, because my life didn’t. My heart stopped. My mind froze. But day still turned to night, and somehow, I kept rising and setting with the sun. And now it’s been a year.
I’m in a good place. I’m happy. I’m getting stronger. I’m still moving forward. But there will always be a piece of me stuck in the moment I learned I had cancer. This missing part reminds me life is fragile. It makes me a more grateful, mindful, and thoughtful individual. But this understanding of life’s fragility also causes me to live with a certain level of fear because I know that one new sensation, one scan, one phone call can change everything.
On my worst days, I feel like I’m clinging desperately to a life that could slip right through my fingers no matter what I do. On my best days, I feel like an unstoppable bad-ass who’s not going to let anything get in my way. This can be a tumultuous ride so I try to live somewhere between these extremes; to be present one day at a time with just enough airy pride to help me rise and the right weight of my reality to keep me grounded. I strive to stay here - poised and steady with an awareness that I can always fall and the hope that I won’t.