Almost two years ago, I spent my first morning in a cancer center. I remember dreading it, I remember thinking that there couldn't be a scarier place to sit, and now, after having spent my eighth afternoon there, I have to tell you that while I HATE melanoma and what it steals from people, the cancer center is a sacred space. It is a space filled with the bravest most amazing people. People fighting the disease, people researching and devoting their lives to helping people fight the disease, and people making peace with statistics and prognosis, as well as people blowing those statistics and prognoses out of the water.
There is nowhere I can think of where human mortality is any more visible, ok, maybe the morgue but you get what I mean. I turned thirty seven recently, and while that makes me middle aged, I am so grateful for every one of those thirty seven years. I am not wishing I were younger (although I do appreciate when others think I am), I am simply grateful for another day. After a cancer diagnosis a person is forced to face mortality. I was thirty five when I was diagnosed with cancer. Hearing the words "you have cancer" conjures up images of death, let's be real. I was thirty five, I'd already outlived my own mother, and that had been my goal for most of my life. A lofty goal, as it turns out. I mean, as you age you know people die, you know everyone dies, you know one day you will die, but much like losing a child, it seems to be a tragedy you somehow feel immune from. At least I did.
I won't say I don't fight fear, I do. I struggle with depression and anxiety. I want to see my children grow up and to grow old with my husband. I want to be there for all of the things my kids do that my own mother missed with me, I will say that there are lessons to be learned that I may never have really embraced until the word "cancer" was uttered to me. I am a hard headed, strong willed, girl. The Lord knows this. The greatest personal growth in life often comes from the greatest hardships. Cancer has been no exception and I refuse to waste it. Don't get me wrong, I still loathe cancer, but I am not willing to not seek beauty where I am, and I am finding it everywhere.
As it turns out (and maybe it is easy for me to say as I still stand at stage 2) I look forward to my days at the cancer center. While they do include needles, oncologists, surgeons, scans, and this time some vein mishaps, vomit, and loss of consciousness, I mean, we're talking about cancer so those things are kind of to be expected and really are at the mild end of the spectrum. I enjoy meeting other patients, I love hearing their stories of hope, and success and wisdom. I've met some of the most incredible people sitting in the waiting rooms of that cancer center, people I think of and pray for daily though I may never see them again this side of Heaven.
I look forward to visits with my oncologist. He is a funny guy, he is caring and he listens to EVERY SINGLE neurotic concern I have, he laughs with me and he understand that often humor is how I cope. He makes me watch SNL skits to ease tension, he drops an f bomb here and there and tells the best stories. I look forward to a little solitude and scrolling my phone and reading a book and if that cancer center doesn't have the most amazing ice machine...dang I love that thing. It also doesn't hurt that there is a Starbucks within the walls of the hospital.
I had my two year scans and check ups this past friday, though my two year anniversary is next week. All is well with my health and my soul. I pray before each appointment for good news, but also that if the news is not what I hope that I am able to live this story well and to bring glory to God in some small way. Melanoma is a cancer that has no cure, all we can hope for is no evidence of the disease ravaging our bodies. It is often lying dormant only to rear it's ugly head some time down the road and while I praise God in my health right now, I pray that if that is a road I am to walk that I am able to praise Him in that as well. I met a few beautiful souls this visit who are doing this so well, they were such an inspiration to me.
One man reminded me that while cancer is NOT necessarily seen as a gift, that it does bring gifts in kind. He is ten years out from a stage four battle for his life and is just grateful to be here today. He has learned not to worry about tomorrow, but to just be glad he woke up today. He told me that after diagnosis, his wife left him and that he had some pretty low lows but for some reason, the Lord wakes him up for another day and he refuses to waste it.
Facing cancer, facing mortality is a scary thing. It kind of takes your breath away, but if you let it, it can give you new life and new breath and a new appreciation for all things. Cancer might be the thing that kills me. It might also be a bus, I mean it could be a shark, it could even be the radiation from the scans that are intended to save me, the bottom line is that every single one of us is only here for a very short time. We are given a set amount of moments, God has ordained exactly how many and we have no idea what that number is. We are not promised a tomorrow, but if you're reading this, you have been given a today. Love big, live big, give big. Make the most of today, we are ALL facing mortality. Go out and accomplish your mission, let's all make the world a better place in some way before we too disappear.
“Each of us is merely a small instrument; all of us, after accomplishing our mission, will disappear.”
― Mother Teresa