Two years, a Hot Minute & a Lifetime
Exactly today...two years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It's weird. In some ways it seems like it was just yesterday when my whole world changed. In just a flash, I've transitioned from crying on my bathroom floor literally crying out loud "I can't do this", to thriving in remission as a cancer survivor. In other ways I feel like I've had a whole lifetime of experiences in these past two years. It's been a never ending cycle of appointments, tests, scans, obstacles, tears, celebrations, growth and change. I can barely recognize the "me" in the pictures that were taken just two short years ago. It's like the me then and the me now are two different people separated by years and years, but bound together by the special place they hold in my heart. The day that changed my life forever truly has been two years, a hot minute and an entire lifetime of ups, downs, highs, lows, fear and incredible gratitude. As I reflect on this journey and the experiences I've had, I think my greatest takeaway is that I did it...Me...Mia Rose. I fell into the darkness, looked fear and death square in the face and kept going. Of course I had support and amazing people cheering me along, but when it comes down to it, I did it and I am kicking cancer's ass. Cancer is isolating. It just is. Everyone else can go home and forget about it until the next day, but being the one with cancer hangs onto your every breath. You see it when you look in the mirror, when you notice the changes to your body and when it steals your sleep at night. It creeps into your life when your mind starts to wander and when you try to make plans because well, will you be around to see those plans through? It just doesn't go away. Not for a second. I have doubted myself so many times over and over, I've cried so many tears, but I never gave up. I have been angry, I have been afraid, I have been completely overwhelmed. I just can't stress enough that there is no magic to enduring this monster. There's just complete diligence. When you find yourself in your own personal hell, you may feel as if you're drowning. Be stubborn. Be a fighter and sure as hell believe that even when you don't and can't seem to believe that you have any power or strength at all, you ARE capable of staying afloat. Barely, maybe, at times, but you have what it takes to not sink. There were and still are moments where I just wish someone could save me from the storm that has been my life or at least rescue me when it gets intolerable. Unfortunately, that is not the way it works. To be honest, I'm pretty damn proud of myself for making it through what I thought I couldn't. I'm proud of finding a way when it seemed as if I had reached the end of the road. You hold so much power and capability within yourself. Believe it. Embrace it and let it take you to places you never thought you'd get to. I mean this physically, mentally, spiritually....all of it. I'm sure I will encounter many more dark days and scary moments as I continue down this path. I'm only two years out from my diagnosis after all. It's still rocky territory. I am certain, however, that I'm armed a little better for the next time life throws daggers my way. We must use the inner light that each of us has, to help us and to guide us through the darkness. Believe in yourself and believe that your light will stay lit despite the toughest of times.
The greatest misconception about my cancer journey thus far as I reflect on my experience is that most people believe once treatment is over, so is the chaos of cancer. Not. Even. Close. Sorry to burst anyone's bubble with this one, but this is the moment the hard work really begins. I mean, I was thrilled to be done with ringing all of the damn bells and the grueling weekly treatments, but my mind hadn't caught up with my body. Not entirely anyway. Like any trauma, your experience will catch up with you. Even now, I have moments that literally take my breath away. I can be sitting in my car and a thought, a song or just some memory takes over and sparks a moment of panic. The fear of having to go through it again, will weigh heavily on your mind. My advice is to not let this scare you and don't run from it. Cry ,yes....be pissed...sure. Don't run from the darkness and don't hide from it. But, learn instead to lean into it...learn from it and be open to people and situations that you didn't really think would be part of your journey to help you through this madness. It's taken me a long time to really come to grips with acknowledging that the darkness is truly a gift. As are the people and experiences that I've had that have gotten me to where I am now. You don't need to pretend like everything is always ok and shove the bad stuff under the rug. Acknowledging the bad stuff and learning and growing through the darkness will make you stronger. It is scary to sit with it, but you will find more peace in dealing with it than running from it. Trust me.
I'm grateful that I can take a deep breath and feel like this moment is a gift. I'm grateful that I have another opportunity to live. I'm grateful that I didn't die. I say that to myself every day because I honestly thought I was going to. Let me say this again....I'm grateful that I didn't die!! Cancer doesn't define me and it never will. I'm happy and completely content, however with letting how I rise from it and how I move forward in life speak for itself. I believe that it is in how we celebrate our victories and how we endure the losses that sets us apart from the rest and speaks volumes about one's character. I've handled a lot of loss...it wasn't and still isn't easy. Celebrating milestones and my journey is scary because I don't want it to all fall apart again. Even still, I choose to celebrate that which did not kill me and find victory in not just the big moments/anniversaries but in the day to day routine. Mundane isn't really a word in my vocabulary anymore. Same shit different day is not something I can tolerate anymore because I truly look forward to what I might experience each day, even if it's just another Monday to some. Who will I see, what conversations will I get to have and what will I get to experience? This is the stuff that I live for. Cancer has propelled me to think outside the box and completely reprioritize my goals, ambitions and well, my life. I am living life unleashed, if you will, and spreading my wings so I can not only fly but soar. My voice is finally loud and unapologetic. I was reminded of a Jane Austen quote this week that I decided is my ultimate goal. She said, " I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve". I love that. I'm feeling really empowered to make certain that just as I, Me, battled these demons on my own. I, too, can make myself happier than I deserve. It's an inside job and one I'm quite willing to set out to conquer. It probably won't always be easy, but I will try my hardest to keep living my life with my eyes wide open and my heart full of love and gratitude for another day. That in itself breeds extreme happiness. Despite more looming scans, blood work, side effects and just the fear that lingers, I will make this second chance at life something ya'll will be talking about long after I'm gone (wink). Happy two years...I'm proud of you, I'm proud of me. It doesn't matter if your light is shining bright or just a dim spark. It is always there and you are oh so capable my friend...Keep on Killing It-M