Five years. Five years ago today my life changed. Five years ago today I was at a nursing conference, simply living completely obliviously, carefree, and unaware of how much my life would change later that afternoon.
I look back at this day and recognize the life that cancer robbed me of. I wish I could go back and tell my innocent self "WAKE UP!" Don't wait until tomorrow...till next month, or next year to do something you want to do. No excuses...do it NOW. I wish work didn't dictate whether I was too tired to do something I wholeheartedly loved...to spend more time with the ones I love...to be present and truly recognize that I was healthy!! My body was strong, vibrant, pain free. Why couldn't I see the greatest gift that laid before me: my HEALTH. It's funny when everything is functioning as it should, disease free, how we imagine this to last infinitely. As if young age was the determinant to a long, healthy, carefree life. Age is merely a number. Just as we like to throw this term around towards those that are elderly; to continue enjoying, and living life, it should also be our cautionary tail to the younger population that the opposite of "age is just a number," doesn't guarantee good health. It's a fickley scenario. It's the; "I should have...I could have...if only..."
At the end of the day I got into my car to go home and I got a phone call from my doctor. Her words echoed in my ears: "I'm so sorry, but it appears you have breast cancer." That was it. That was the moment that would divide my life from complete innocence into a harsh reality. Everything moving forward was now viewed as "before" and "after" cancer.
I can still remember after those words were spoken, simply sitting in my car, in tears, and trying to comprehend the magnitude of what all this meant. I looked around and felt like my world stopped while everyone else's around me continued. It's a weird thing to try and explain because it's kind of indescribable. This happens to OTHER people, but I had become one of those people. I sat in my car for a while before heading home. The thought of telling my loved ones was almost harder to bear. I knew I would need surgery , but didn't know the details of the extent of treatment I would require. I called my brother in shock, and I'm surprised he even was able to coherently hear what it was I was saying. The drive home was a complete blur.
I went to my mom's house to tell her the news...news I so wished I would never need to burden her with. My mother had lost her husband, my dad, when I was a child from cancer and now me?! I still remember walking up her driveway and her greeting me with her friendly, loving smile. The same way she had greeted me for 26 years when I walked into her house; with open arms and a hug. She knew something was terribly wrong as I had been crying the whole drive home. I was never much of an emotional wreck, but cancer had already turned me into one! I remember sitting in the living room, trying to make sense of a completely senseless situation. Seriously, what's there to do other than cry?
I then had to tell my fiancé, who is now my husband, about it. This would be the true test to our relationship and whether he wanted to remain with me. He was a keeper as he never left, and trust me, at times, I know I was an impossible person to be around. I even told him, flat out, at one point that he could use his "get out of jail card" as I was most certainly making life seem like we were confined to a prison. An emotional roller coaster prison mixed in with hell. It was bloody hard. No, that word doesn't even do it justice. It was as though a snake was grappled around my neck, constricting the life out of me. This is not the way people in their late 20s typically live.
Today, 5 years ago, I thought it would be the worst day of my life, but I'd have to say my stage IV diagnosis trumped that by a million. 5 years ago today my life became divided. My cancer diagnosis froze me in my tracks. Everything stopped. My career was put on hold, and my life revolved around chemo , treatment, appointments, and scans. I had no control. I was forced to stop. My wedding had to become an afterthought, and survival became my only priority. I had to stay afloat if I ever dreamed of making my wedding a reality. And I did. Treatment came and went and it was almost like a new beginning. I understood the true fragility of life, the horrors of cancer, but also the beauty of living. I realized how loved I was through the unending support provided to me by not only my family, but my collegues and friends.
5 years ago my innocence, my naivety, and my very sense of who I was disappeared. Actually it was ripped out from under me.
As we approach October, AKA breast cancer awareness month I ask all who read this to understand one thing: early stage breast cancer/mammograms, etc... Play little bearing of what cancer will decide to do. I'm that prime example. I was deemed "curable" with this. I was "curable," or so I thought.
5 years ago today everything changed, and I was forced to recognize that cancer has the last word in regards to what these asshole, rogue cells in my body decide to do, but I'll be damned to ever allow it to take over my soul. So today, like every other day since, I'll give thanks to the beautiful people in my life, to the fact that I can breath, have minimal pain, and that I'm still here to see the beauty in this world.
Today, I'm sitting by a pool with someone I love dearly; my mom. Today is different from five years ago, although my health may not be better, I am genuinely happy. I'm happy because I'm relishing this very moment. I'm not waiting for tomorrow, or the next day to enjoy something in the foreseeable future. I've realized that by constantly waiting...waiting for the weekend or until next month I am simply robbing myself of the beauty of this moment. Nobody knows what the future holds, but I know what this moment holds, and it's pretty darn sweet so I refuse to let cancer rob me of anymore moments of pure bliss. We get one chance at this life, so I'm going to make it the most beautiful life...in this moment my life is perfect. Here's to many more years of finding the beauty that took me 26years to find.