I heard those words – those horrible words, “you have cancer.” I remember the moment so vividly. That moment, that day and the couple days that followed will forever be seared in my heart and mind. As my friend reminds me, “it is that moment that connects all cancer survivors.” No matter what our path, prognosis, or treatment, we all can tell you exactly how that moment rocked our world – and how it forever changed our lives.
For me, it was the absolute disbelief that this could really be happening. That this was even real. For days, weeks, really, I was certain that there had been a grave mistake. This diagnosis just didn’t fit with who I was, with my identity as a happy, healthy, strong person. One year later, I have come to embrace my identity as a survivor. To have traversed that path of unknowns, surgery, recovery, questions that don’t have answers, my changing body, and a new understanding of health – has only deepened and strengthened my identity as a happy, healthy, strong survivor.
I have always loved when people don’t fit neatly into boxes. Ironic I know as a Mental Health Therapist…but what I love about people and working with people to heal – is their complexity, their contradictions, their endless iterations….the ways that they don’t fit in boxes. When I was in college in Iowa, I remember meeting a fair amount of people who had never met a Jewish person (yes it is the least diverse state in the nation). I routinely heard in surprised and shocked tones, “you are Jewish?” There was a part in me that loved to break whatever unconscious stereotypes that conjured in their minds – and reveal to them that yes, I am Jewish. And in some small way, make them grapple with the box they had understood to be what being Jewish meant.
I also love that moment when someone does that for me – a client who reveals a part of themselves that completely shocks me. Somehow it is so refreshing. Like we are all so much more than we will ever know. But it is these moments of doubt, distress, and uncertainty that test us, that push us to examine who we are and what we want. In Hawaii, I learned about the concept of mana – which means power and intention. The man who taught me about this said, “every day, we need to ask ourselves who am I, what do I want, where am I going?” Every day. If we all did this each day, we would consistently refine our versions of ourself.
So who am I this morning? I guess I ended up being a Bad-ass survivor after taking a 30 mile bike ride with my hubby, sissy, and bro! 26 of these miles were literally straight up hill (3500 hundred feet elevation gain!) We didn’t quite know what we were in store for as we had to alter the original route after finding a gravel road. And then guess what? We came to a gravel road anyway and rode 4 miles on it (finally some downhill) which we couldn’t quite enjoy as I was terrified of my skinny road tires almost skid out the entire time! But alas my view of my pink ribbon on my bike (because yes my head was down much of the day as I pedaled my ass off), was a lovely reminder of what this day was about – a celebration that I get to do this ride. Even in the moments when Mich and I said if we saw another uphill, we would really cry (and I’m not kidding), I still had a feeling of tremendous gratitude that I get to celebrate this day. To all those still struggling…remember the many parts of you, and decide who and what you want to be each day as you fight your fight.
P.S. I wrote this yesterday but am just posting today so Happy Mother’s Day to all! Today, I am a Bad-ass Mom!