I'm taking three magic white pills each day to stay alive, keeping my cancer at bay and death at a distance. Getting a diagnosis for chronic blood cancer flipped my world upside down. After six months of chemotherapy and the miracles of modern science, I'm teeming with gratitude. I wouldn't have picked getting a cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2013 but I'm allowing this ongoing challenge to be an opportunity for personal growth; working on healing my body, mind and spirit. It's all one anyway, isn't it?
Life is funny. We think we are behind the steering wheel, foot on the gas, steering our life choices. A diagnosis of a chronic, rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma changed everything. Yet it is now a part of me, tweaking my identity and reminding me to live more mindfully, more gratefully. Life vision is now 20/20 with greater clarity in each moment and a fierce drive to make all the moments count. Tears and fears don't drown my ache for embracing life more fully so I soldier on.
I deal with this challenge by acknowledging my blessings of which there are many. I have a loving family and I even got to keep my hair - a small thing but important gift. By making a conscious decision to cut the cord of "patient identification" I become me again -- a better wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. The gift of accepting this chronic condition is a constant reminder to keep my life's journey on track, establish goals, and create meaning.
However, the gift of surviving chemo cocktails and getting a second chance at life blows my circuits. What will life now look like? When might it end? What can I do to manifest meaning and eliminate regret? Each day I can do anything or nothing at all. Allowing the body to guide me as it embraces the stewardship of keeping this vessel whole, I listen deeply without judgment. My body guides me now, not my active mind. Sitting quietly a busy mind and painful joints but I sit and watch my breath; or decisively watch the pain ebb and flow. Following the sensations and the reactions of my body in stillness, the body remembers and tells me what it needs. The cells rejuvenate and regenerate, my nervous system flows rather than flip-flopping. I have permission to say "no" (didn't I always?) and to rest as needed. But mostly there is gratitude for everything; the darkness and the light. Cancer can be an opportunity for many forms of gratitude and cultivates seeds of "thank you's" in my psychic garden.
We don't always get what we want in life nor do we get the rewards of ice bucket challenges or pink ribbons. But some of us are lucky enough to get a second and third chance. It's not always the life we planned but maybe better and different - once we get the hang of it. My diagnosis could have been better, could have been worse. Gratitude offers perspective and I'm doing gratitude boot camp. Seeing the love and beauty around me as much as possible, learning to accept 'what is', having goals and hopes, this is me surviving gracefully.
Cancer treatment is in a revolution of discovery and this is gratitude with a triple shot. Just when my body had become too weakened from chemotherapy, and therefore facing the possibility of a stem cell transplant, the FDA approved a new oral targeted therapy drug to keep my cancer at bay.
One can ask, "Why me?" I just don't go there. There is gratitude for this new beginning - one of inner peace, self-acceptance, acceptance of everything and everyone as best I can. There are constant opportunities to practice letting in love and trusting the love around me. Such authentic loving connections are medicine that birth greater healing. This is my own unique Spring and cherry blossoms of spirit continue to bloom. Everyday I can choose to unwrap another gratitude gift and celebrate. Everyday can be my birthday.