Cancer Lives in the Basement

It’s the one year anniversary of my mastectomy! Although the cancer is gone, it still very much feels like a part of our lives.

Cancer is similar to a cousin who lives in the basement… sometimes it’s annoying have another guest around, but then he goes and does something totally sweet like stocks the fridge or brings home flowers.

Yes, there are perks to having cancer. Two weeks ago, I was in New York City thanks to cancer. Last week, I got to do an interview with Better Homes and Gardens (look for the October issue!). Cancer has also given me perspective on what I’m willing to give and what I’m willing to take.

I recently had a friend ask for the three things I didn’t want people to give me when I was diagnosed. Here they are:

Pity. Pity says, “This sucks and you’re probably not strong enough to handle it.” Pity doesn’t leave room to celebrate a woman as she rises to the challenge ahead of her. I’m smart, I can look around and see how good I’ve got it. There’s no room for pity in my life.

Fear. Fear says, “Oh my gosh. You’re gonna die!” at which point, I, as the patient, have to be the one comforting and consoling the caretaker. It took too much of my energy to constantly reassure people that I was going to be okay, so I generally just avoided the fear-filled ones.

Sadness. Sadness says, “This is terrible. There is no joy to be found here.” People assumed I was sad and distraught about my diagnosis. Yes, I had those moments, but most of the time, I was joyful. Seriously. It was strange. I have never felt closer to God and my husband than during my battle with breast cancer. In fact, after the cancer, I had to have a long talk with God about it. I was so aware of His presence in the hard times that I missed Him once everything settled down. I had to ask God to show me how to maintain that closeness with Him in everyday life. I had to fight to preserve this beautiful intimacy with Him.

I tell you what worked (or rather didn’t work) for me in hopes that you’ll take a moment to think about what works (and doesn’t work) for you. Then, run.

Run toward the people who feed your soul and away from those who suck it dry. Not every emotion someone wants to give you needs to be accepted. I’m not saying we can cut off all communication with people who leave us feeling empty. I’m just suggesting we  make sure we are feeling strong and full before we pick up the phone or allow them into our life in any other way.

Today is a milestone day for me. I hope it will become a milestone day for you, too.

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