To You With Love

I was taken back to July 2012 today as I sat across the table from a writer interested in my cancer journey. She asked the hard questions, accompanied by apologies as my eyes watered and voice trembled. I walk around as a Cancer Survivor every day reminded by my scar, 3 tiny radiation tattoos, and the Southern California Reproductive Center newsletters in my inbox, but those are feelings of triumph and pride. Rarely do I take myself back to that morning in Dr. Kiseleva's office where my life was changed forever, or the awful 9-day stay in the hospital following surgery - the NG tube that was inserted because my stomach needed to be flushed, the stare I held with my mom as they shoved the tube down my nose, the 48 hours that followed in which I couldn't talk, eat, or find comfort. I recalled my bladder scare and the teetering back and forth between paranoia and staying in tune. Every twinge and area of pain had to be evaluated and looked into. My life, once driven by big picture thinking and big, beautiful goals had shortened to day-to-day survival mode. My Dad's words ringing in my ears, "Make it to tomorrow." That's how basic my life got. 

At the end of our interview, I was asked about the words I would share with women who are just now beginning the process of fighting cancer. After some thought, this is what I'd want them to hear... 

"First, you must know with every ounce of your soul that you are going to win this battle. Hope and faith have strong arms and they will carry you through your darkest days and your biggest challenges. You will be tested beyond belief, and faith will give you the fight you need. Find your faith and never let it go. I promise you, time does heal. Tomorrow will be better. Stay patient and be gentle with yourself. Remember you are not alone. It's critical that you connect with others who are having a similar experience - use them, lean on them, give to them. Chances are, in the thick of your journey, you will feel broken down, vulnerable, powerless, and lost. For a period of time you will simply live to survive...one day at a time. No frills, just basic needs. Consider yourself a dormant flower preparing for a beautiful bloom. Honor this phase. When you look out onto the future and you can't see a thing, don't be scared and don't lose hope. Take that in as an artist would a blank canvas, and let your mind run wild with what's to come. This is easier said than done, but try with all your effort to create a vision - starting fresh as the creator of your greatest life. Tap into your faith and know you will win. Know there will be tomorrow. Know that you will bloom again...because you are a Cancer Warrior. And lastly, when your treatment ends and cancer is just a piece of your past, life will begin to occur much differently for you. Do not try to fight this. (And you will.) You must remember not to cling to the pre-cancer version of yourself. That life is what was. Let there be room for this new woman to come forth - let her grow, let her transform, let her taste the unobstructed sweetness of life."