"I'm sorry, it's cancer."

 

I remember someone once telling me you don't have cancer until someone tells you you do. 

It was one year ago today that I got the call confirming what had always seemed to be my worst fear. The biopsy came back and it was indeed cancer. It's strange to hear those words. I imagine it's different for everyone. Some people are floored by the news unable to comprehend the words. Others go numb in disbelief. For me, they were words I always knew would come and somehow hearing them was still very surreal.

I have what they call a BRCA1 mutation. This means that I have a genetic predisposition to breast and ovarian cancers - my body simply cannot fight off these particular cancer cells as well as most women. It "runs in our family" as they say and most of the women on my mother's side have gone through one or the other or both so it was something I generally anticipated in my life.  Of course I HOPED I might be the lucky one that somehow it would bypass me but when your odds are 87% statistically and pretty much 100% within my own family, well, you kind of assume the worst.

The funny thing I learned that day is that, as with many things in life, sometimes the fear of something can be worse than the thing itself.  It sounds odd to say that about something as serious as cancer. I mean it's CANCER for god's sake. But as many times as I had feared that moment - imagining it in my head and worrying about the day it would come - when it did come, it wasn't the life stopping moment I imagined.  I'm not gonna say it was easy - my husband and I sat there together holding hands with me on the phone receiving the news. And yeah we teared up and hugged each other after thanking the doctor and hanging up the phone. But as we looked at each other and sat there thinking what do we do now, it occurred to me that all we could do was keep living. It was 4:30 on a Monday and he had a golf league game and I had a client to get to and I simply couldn't see the point in not doing either of those things that night. I knew there were going to be days coming when everything would change, when we would have to rearrange schedules, deal with sickness from treatment, and face the fear.  But in that moment I said, you go golf, I'm going to work, when we both get home let's go out to dinner and figure this out.  And that is what we did - over dinner and drinks at our favorite spot, we exhaled from holding our breath for the last three days waiting for the news we now knew, and we laughed and we talked and we stared at each other and we started the process of figuring it out.

Some may say it was shock, others might call it "fight or flight" mode where you just keep going. I like to think that somehow deep inside I knew that at that moment all we had was that moment. All any of us ever have is this moment we are in. We can spend hours, days, even years worrying about what will come. And we can spend hours, days, and years worrying over what has gone. But those hours, days, and years are made up of these moments. This present moment that is all any of us are ever guaranteed and hopefully lucky enough to recognize. So no matter what you might be facing, stop, breathe, and realize that no matter what may come next you have this moment and it's yours to live the way you wish.

I am no different than anyone else who faces a major life challenge. I am not better, not stronger, not braver, not more prepared. I am no less scared, no less angry, and no less uncertain about what will come. What I am is open to the peace that can come when I focus on this moment and let go for even a few seconds. Whether you call it giving it up to God, or trusting in the Universe, or relying on your Guardian Angels, it's about faith. Faith that somehow it will all be ok and that I damn well better enjoy this moment because it's the only one I can count on.  And even in the saddest or scariest moments of our lives, the fact that we are alive to feel those emotions is such a beautiful thing.

Yesterday is already gone. Tomorrow is not yet here. Today is the only day available to us. It is the most important day of our lives.
— Thich Nhat Hanh