A Year of Opportunity
Hello all of you lovely humans taking the time out of your busy lives to see what's going on in this crazy life of mine! I hope this finds you all well and dealing with the pre Thanksgiving madness with as much grace and ease as you can muster. I began the week celebrating my birthday! For the first time in a long time, I didn't have the overwhelming urge to celebrate in the big, big way that I typically want to when acknowledging that I made it another year. Believe it or not, there was a time in my life that my cancer prognosis had me doubting whether or not I would still be here at this juncture. It IS something to celebrate, for sure, but this past year has probably been one of the hardest years of my life. Yes, even harder than the year the big 'C" entered my world. Last year at this time I had just completed what I thought would be my final reconstructive surgery. I was wearing a stupid torso brace while taking out sushi from my favorite restaurant (ugh, pandemic), with some really great friends. I remember feeling a bit bummed by my circumstance, but I was so incredibly optimistic for what the year could potentially bring into my life! I had plans. The big kind. Just about six weeks later, I found myself once again in a pre septic state with a staph infection sucking me back into yet another medical nightmare. While I avoided organ failure and the ICU (barely) this time, something was taken from. I lost my left breast, my dignity, my hopes, my faith and I was once again left traumatized and broken. Not how I thought the year was going to go! The little bit of hope and naiveté I had left, had me thinking I could be back to "normal" (whatever that is) by May. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Ok, so that didn't happen (insert eye roll). Here I am one year later....I actually had the surgery that was supposed to be in May, in August. It was a bit more intense than I really expected. The giant incision scar on my back is a reminder that one part of my body is working hard to save the other. My Lat muscle and breast are now close friends..haha! I endured 5 weeks of surgical drains hanging from my worn out self. I dodged another infection by listening to my body and enjoying a middle of the night ER visit. I've been healing slowly and working with my plastics team to fill the expander that is placed in my reconstructed breast area. I have one more fill next week (yay!!) and then comes surgery #7. And this is just the physical stuff!! The emotional trauma was probably the making of a really great screenplay someday, ha! No really, I've had to make my mental health a huge priority this year and I'm so grateful for so many healthy outlets that have served me in a really huge way. Reiki, Yoga, running when I can, long walks at sunset...these are all helping me to find some calm amidst the chaos. I'm really mourning and grieving all that has been taken from me this year. I've also experienced life as a caretaker which is hard has hell. Having cancer has been hard, but I'm learning that being a caretaker for someone with an incurable disease is absolutely heartbreaking. My mom is really struggling. She gave me life...twice. I will explain that more at a later time when I"m ready, but not being able to fix this for her or take it on for her is the hardest thing I've ever had to face. Yes, harder than cancer. So, yeah, celebrating big just didn't seem right. I celebrated quietly with the people who brought me into this world and the ones who keep me wanting to fight to stay. Somehow, someway, though...I'm finding myself once again wanting to dream big and hope that this new year of my life can turn out to be something great.
I was listening to my friend Trevor's podcast yesterday. He's legit a genius at his craft. His words always resonate with me and in this particular case, they met me where I was and helped guide me to where I want to go. Something he said stuck with me...".finding opportunity within challenges". I mean, I think I've done this quite often throughout my cancer journey and in life, but I think my emotions took over in a such a big way this year that at times all I could deal with was just that...the grief, the pain and the hardship. They were kind of blinding me to be honest. I certainly embraced many opportunities as I reflect on my advocacy work and I had some great things happen, but lately it feels like I've been dwelling on the hardships and not necessarily always seeing the opportunities that they could create if only I think of these challenges as such. Through all of this trauma and hardship, I'm really reflecting on how could I have leveled up and created even more opportunities! I consider myself someone who is always willing to grow and change for good. Changing or maybe reaffirming this as my mindset feels really right. I'm sure this new year of my life will be full of difficult moments. I still have surgery, scans, oncology visits, showing up for my parents and all of the other ups and downs life might throw at me. I choose to definitely feel the emotions, lean into what is uncomfortable, because after all, that's living ya'll! But I'm also challenging myself to look for the opportunity. I know it's always there however big or small. Freud said, "One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful". I hate to admit it, but I think he might be right. I'm proud of how I've handled some pretty tough situations and I'm even prouder of the fact that I'm willing to keep learning and growing despite the many obstacles that could quite literally tear me apart. "I'm not stuck-I can grow"-Trevor Ragan
Check out the Podcast "The Learner Lab"! You won't regret it. I'm on Season 3 Episode 4, but you will definitely want to go back and get caught up on it all!
Happy Thanksgiving my dear angels. Love hard, eat well and don't stop chasing that which sets your soul on fire! Until next time XO-M.