To Be Seen & Heard
The sun is beginning to set here on just another Sunday for some, but a day for others that packs a little punch. Today is National Cancer Survivor's Day. I have been touched by the texts and hugs and love that I have felt as people have reached out to me. Thank you. It fills my heart to know that I am loved and appreciated but also that I have made even the slightest difference for some as I've made cancer advocacy a focus and priority in my life. I remember at numerous times during my cancer journey wondering just what it meant to be a survivor. When did you reach "survivor" status? It feels more like being a victim of cancer some days but survivor sounds a bit more heroic somehow? I don't know....the lingo can be confusing, but I guess what I've concluded is that survivorship is just a word designed to imply that you have gone through some really dark, heavy experiences and you're still here to tell the stories. I had a doctor tell me way back at the beginning of my journey that you are a survivor the day you find out that you have cancer. It felt weird referring to myself as such early on and even today as I'm still trying to work my way out of the cancer BS, I don't feel like a survivor, I feel more like I'm surviving......kind of.....some days....ok, I'm a hot mess let's just be real. haha. Seriously though, as I've reflected today on what it means to me to be included in this day and identified by whomever as a "survivor", I find myself feeling a little sad, a lot grateful, somewhat guilty and immensely hopeful. I hate it that some really brave souls are not here to be considered a survivor. The reality is that cancer takes too many lives in the blink of an eye. I don't even know how I've escaped death as many times as I have. Recurrence is always on my mind, but yet I'm still hopeful that I can be one of the lucky ones who ultimately becomes a cancer thriver. That's the goal anyway. Without a doubt, some of the hardest days of my life have revolved around my cancer diagnosis. That said, some of the most beautiful, insightful, spiritual and fulfilling experiences have popped up on this same winding path. This survivor life is a constant contradiction of sorts. Light/darkness, reassurance/skepticism, hope/despair, courage/fear, life/death, broken/complete. And this is just the rollercoaster of emotions you feel on day 1. We are survivors from the get go because the trials and tribulations we face are unlike anything you can imagine. We are strength, we are beauty, we are trail blazers and we are gifts to this world. I honor my fellow survivors, I mourn the souls that by no means lost a battle, but our science and treatment plans failed them. I applaud the caretakers and the people who stayed. You are rare and you, too, need to be celebrated.
I was honored to have an article published in the June 2021 edition of the Elephants and Tea Magazine. We were prompted to write a letter to cancer. As you know, these last few months for me have been pretty challenging and during one of many sleepless nights, I poured my heart out. Without hesitation I sent it to the editors. I am completely honored that they resonated with my words and that I can now look back at this horrific time of my life and know that I did something good. Since my issues stem around surgical complications this time, I wasn't really able to just run a race or physically challenge myself in the manner I have been accustomed to in order for me to feel like I was still in control of my life......not cancer. I had to think outside the box here and I'm realizing that the days I was feeling weak and incapable, that I have, in fact, still been climbing that damn mountain. It just didn't have the obvious Spartan Flags at every turn. My marathon, obstacle course, finish line hasn't been as literal this go around as it was in the past, but it's been equally rewarding. I've had to dig really deep and deal with some of cancer's demons that were trying to get the best of me. I've shared, I've let my scars be visible and I've discovered things about myself that some I like and some I have decided to change. I can assure you, I'm healing and I'm finding that cancer doesn't completely call all of the shots. Not yet anyway. My published article is proof that even when I'm down, I"m most certainly not out.
To my fellow Survivors....I see you. I hear you. I honor you and I'm so, so, so happy that you are still here. Much love always-M.