Human nature dictates questioning everything and then finding or making up a reason to ease our vulnerable minds. We do this in order to stop the repeat of a bad event or have a great experience happen again. Twelve years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, the fear has yet to be completely silenced. When I hear of someone dying from the same illness, my first response is to find out what they did wrong. They had to have missed appointments or refused treatments… right? I mean, why did I survive? Worse is when I hear stories of it returning ten years later. Again, I go through a process of questioning everything, recalling everything I had done, asking my oncologist questions about percentages and statistics just to soothe the fright that will never go away. Fortunately, I have a lot of distractions to keep from obsessing which keeps my sanity walking the line at all times.
During my fight with my body to live, my mental health went into overdrive. I did what I normally do when faced with a challenge, that if bested, I felt would destroy me. I insured my emotional armor had no holes and my shield of logic was shining before I stepped forward into the fray. The walls I’d put up between me and the world came crashing down. I couldn’t survive if they remained in place. I hated it. I’d always kept a distance between everyone and my heart, except my kids. Now I’d be revealed and exposed for all to swoop in and take control of what I’d spent years, protecting all on my own.
Faith, thou art no friend of mine. I believed in what I could control. Delusional? Quite. This sickness threatened to rip me away from the people I vowed to keep safe from the rest of the world. And it might win. When people told me to have faith in God, I laughed. Never the one to accept putting my life into anyone else’s hands. Even the divine. That’s when I learned the acts of control did not exist. Nature cannot be controlled, though a lot of ignorant people think it can be and somehow convince others of the same. You’re wrong.
Hope? Well, with the unknown there is always hope. Eventually your wishes will be answered and not in the way you wanted or expected. Nature definitely has a great sense of humor and a nasty back handed bitch slap. In my case, she forced me up and out into the world. Forced me to let people in and trust others, but also insured that I knew not everyone could be trusted. Her use of smoke and mirrors dazzled my brain pushing me to tears and laughter in an even ratio. I went a little overboard in the wanting to get out and let people in. Ms. Nature showed me people who acted like friends but were really antagonists and those who acted like the villain could be trusted. Crazy? I know. Hope is just a delay tactic to the inevitable. Eventually, everyone shows their truth. Just like I had to.
Here’s my logic to my cancer experience:
I was already dead. I never went out. I kept my kids close at all times. My heart could not be reached by anyone but my husband and even then, he had to work for the opportunity. I truly appreciate his love and patience. My life’s foundation had been built on fear. The fear my husband would find someone better. That if I didn’t watch over my children 24/7 they would get hurt and I would have to kill whoever allowed that. I saw predators lurking in every corner of this world waiting for me to drop my guard.
My children were seven, five and three when the cancer bomb dropped right on my head. The first diagnosis did not come from a doctor. The bad news came from a medium. Yes. That’s right. My deceased mother, who I watched die from cancer, told me to go to the doctor. I listened like I always, mostly, did growing up under her guidance. My base-line mammography changed my world.
I must have done something wrong to be punished like that. To be forced to allow others to watch over my children while I recovered from a double mastectomy, sat in a chair for hours every other week while poison slowly dripped into my vein making me weak and feeling barely alive and then weeks of radiation that tore open parts of my skin. What the hell did I do? I think I asked my husband, at least, ten times a day if I would survive. When you’re stuck in bed, unable to move and barely able to think you do wonder why you’re still alive. And then my children would curl up next to me and I knew.
Cancer didn’t change me, but everything I had to do to win the battle did. I made the hard decisions. I gave up parts of myself in order to free my heart, my mind and my soul from the cage I kept them all locked in. It’s somewhat true that “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” But it can also make you weaker if you let it.
I barely survived my childhood with a sense of self. I wasn’t abused, but both loved and hated in equal measures. Love was twisted by betrayal and abandonment and I remember the hurt more than the affection. Stories I learned later on were worse than what had been going on right in front of my eyes. I started putting together my armor at the age of thirteen with the complete loss of safety and comfort. So you can imagine how impenetrable it was when I got married at the age of twenty-five. My husband definitely saw more of me than I did for him to actually say “I do.” And mean it.
And he was right.
I’m still crazy protective but instead of suffocating my family inside armor too small for me alone, I taught them how to protect themselves in every which way possible. This includes showing them I’m human and confess that I make mistakes like everyone else.
So Hope and Faith are beautiful sentiments, but if life doesn’t go the way you want it to, think of it as an adventure and try the find the treasures in the junk.