Three years ago today, I fearfully showed up for my first chemotherapy infusion at the Cancer Institute at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It would be the first of 20 weeks of experiences that to be honest, seem like a complete blur. When I found out I had cancer, I was devastated. When I found out I had to complete months of chemotherapy, I was utterly terrified. I was ending 2017 and beginning 2018 in one hell of a nightmare. Others were making resolutions, toasting the new year, making plans and just being normal young adults. I was having port surgery, my first red dragon infusion, trying not to throw up or pass out due to extreme fatigue and not to mention, scouring the tri state area for the perfect wig in preparation of the inevitable losing of my locks. Those of you who haven't endured cancer, may wonder why in the hell I keep acknowledging all of these anniversaries of sorts. I realize you might think it would be better for me to just move on and put it all behind me. My reasoning for why that isn't possible is really quite simple. I'm still very traumatized and triggered by everything I've endured which results in the fact that I'm still learning the profound impact my cancer experience has had on my life, not to mention, how in awe I am of this inner strength that I didn't know I had and how it got me through, well, hell. There are many days that believe it or not, my wish is to hold all of these terrible experiences in the palm of my hand right out in front of my face and examine them. I feel this need not to forget and definitely not to ignore how these incredibly difficult experiences have given me perhaps the greatest gifts that I could ever have hoped for. It's true that the trauma I have endured has really altered me in ways I can't completely explain, but it has also shown me a light that is like this secret that no one else has had the privilege to see. I use it as my compass. You see, I hold that grief, fear, sorrow, pain and brokenness in my hand to help me see the strength, passion, drive, individuality and resilience that defines who I am and what I'm capable of achieving in my life. I quite literally lost my identity and what I thought was my reality. To feel like your only beauty is stripped from your possession leaves you feeling exposed. Where I once saw faces, over time I saw backs that were turning on me for reasons I doin't really understand, other than I just couldn't keep up for reasons beyond my control. Relationships have been tested and altered, dreams have been adapted and tolerance for meaningless shit...well, it no longer exists. Despite all of this, somehow I have found myself more fulfilled and more authentically me than I could ever have imagined. I stepped out of the shadows I had casted on myself and into this light of understanding that includes seeing life and love in a way that is probably wise beyond my years. It has also left me less in search of things and more intent of making good use of my time.
The night I was diagnosed, a nurse that I spoke to told me to give her six months and she'd get me my life back. In the here and now, this gives me quite the chuckle as it's been so much longer than six months and I'm still working on finding some sort of resemble of the person I was once was. Actually, scratch that. I'm not really looking for the old me to come front and center once again. I've learned way too much and experienced so, so much to be able to be content with the way I once was. I've come to the conclusion that going back to her, that just doesn't serve me. I miss her, but for me now, it's about creating the life I wish to live and becoming the woman I wish to become while thanking the old me for the lessons and appreciating this version of myself that I am right now. Those words that my nurse uttered to me, however, honestly I needed to hear in that moment. I needed that hope. Hope goes a long way I guess. It made me feel like I could handle it, or at least that I could try. As it turned out, chemo was just one leg of this very long and treacherous journey that I've been on. It wasn't easy, but it also wasn't the worst thing I experienced. I met some amazing souls during my hours in that infusion chair. I watched a lot of Netflix (thanks Stranger Things) and had great conversations with family and friends who took the time out of their lives to take me to my infusion each Friday. I also read some great books, journaled, cried, daydreamed about where I was going to travel and what I was going to do and I really kept it all together, at least when everyone was looking. If you could see me right now as I write this, you would see the tears rolling down my cheeks. It's still so raw. The emotion....the fear....the brokenness. I know it has all molded me into something better, but there is just still so much for me to come to terms with. I am proud of my resilience. I'm proud of my ability to take the hits and keep on getting up.
As I look back and reflect on this year that is almost officially behind us ( oh thank the Lord above!), I'm again being reminded that I thrived amidst the reality of having a crappy immune system in a freaking pandemic! I finished a clinical trial, I had my port taken out and a couple of clear scans. I had reconstructive surgery and healed normally this time (hallelujah!). I also achieved a major goal that I set a year ago and had one of my articles published in a cancer magazine! Thank you to "Elephants & Tea", I'm still in a little bit of disbelief and so incredibly grateful for the honor. I'm taken back by how proud I am that I was able to keep putting one foot in front of the other despite so much adversity as a result of living in this country as a "vulnerable human". It's been tough holding my own and seeing my worth when society has made me feel so dispensable. I have so much more left to do in this life and I am determined to make good use of my time no matter if that means a party bus full of support or flying solo on the wings of my angels. I'm not so into resolutions probably because it seems a little cliche' to me, but I am into promises. The promises that I'm making for this new year of possibilities is that I will continue to let my palm full of trauma and experiences remind me and guide me. Those lessons were a gift. Gifts that are setting me on this new path of self discovery and utter beauty. I promise to work on loving myself a little more and giving this body the honor and grace it deserves for getting me through the strongest of storms. I promise to keep learning and changing and growing. Challenging myself physically, emotionally and spiritually will help me to find the peace in these areas that I'm so desperately seeking. Finally, I promise myself to sip the coffee, laugh until my sides ache, hug tighter, kiss longer, keep on chasing that beautiful sunrise, really listen to others and just breathe. I promise to keep setting goals that project me to a higher existence. I promise to keep it real and most importantly I promise myself to live more out of intent and less out of regret. In this new year, my wish for all of you is that you find happiness despite obstacles and peace even when surrounded by chaos. I hope you find the the light you seek and feel the love you so very much deserve. I'm excited about where the road may lead us, even if it's not in the same direction we had planned. Keep the faith and as always, keep on killing it. -M
"I thrive in uncertain situations. I bounce back from challenges. I break free from cycles. I am resilient. I am unstoppable. I have what it takes. I trust the unknown and unseen because I have faith. I am flourishing, blooming and coming out on top. It's my time". -Idillionaire
Thanks for the lessons 2020...
"Flowers grow back even after the harshest of winters. You will too."