People often ask me if having had cancer made me appreciate my life more. And they also ask me what my biggest lessons have been.
Having been involved in personal growth since my early twenties, by the time I got cancer, I already had a solid inner sense of who I am, my purpose on the planet, my dark side and frailties, as well as my beauty, wisdom and strengths. I have an appreciation for living every day to the fullest. Knowing that my life is a gift and that we can all die in any moment has been a core part of who I am for a very long time.
The hardest part for me was not the cancer itself, nor the surgeries, the reconstruction, the chemo, or the hair loss. The hardest part was the way that people that I had considered good friends responded to me. I was truly shocked when I received strong judgments from people that I had considered close friends, as well as anger, fear, withdrawal, and some really crazy behavior. Many people judged me as ‘operating from fear’ saying that I was mutilating my body, and they couldn’t understand why I would get a PBM (preventative/prophylactic double mastectomy) rather than choose some alternative route. I had several people start friendship ending fights with me over other random issues. I had heard that cancer makes you realize who your friends really are, and this certainly proved true for me.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is another group of people who put those of us who have had cancer or who are at risk for getting cancer on a pedestal, and they make us somehow larger than life. These people also distanced themselves with assumptions and an unrealistic picture of who I am or what I was going through.
There is this cloud of fear and shame that surrounds the word ‘cancer’. People hear it and they simply freak out. They don’t even bother to find out what type of cancer it is or if it is curable or treatable; they just get weird. It is as if the person with cancer has leprosy, and it’s contagious.
The magic of the whole experience however, was all of the people who came forward, both friends and strangers, to help, to offer support, to have compassion, and to offer services and suggestions. The way in which I experience my friendships has dramatically changed through this experience, in a positive, life affirming way.
I share this because I have heard similar stories from other people who have had a PBM or cancer. I have found myself supporting many people on this journey over the last few years. I have been a teacher and leader for most of my life, and I feel passionate about sharing what I have learned.
I am gratified to offer personal experiences, hope, possibility, and a positive outlook to others.
with blessings and love,