Wake-up call

I was told that Breast Cancer is a wake-up call. It’s a special-delivery letter that says, “You, too, are mortal. You will die, someday.” All of us fervently hope that we will be lucky and will live to a ripe and healthy old age. But knowing that we may not be so fortunate gives us a chance to examine our lives. I believe that an examined life is the only life worth living, and I believe that the misfortune of breast cancer gives us the opportunity to create the life we really want.

If this does not do it, what will? If breast cancer does not shake you to your core and then toss you back into the middle of life…what could?

Cancer is often described as a journey that starts at diagnosis. During treatment, some people feel that their life is on hold. After treatment ends, it may be hard to know how to resume normal activities. This can be described as being in limbo.

Survivors may expect life to return to what it was like before the cancer diagnosis. For many people, though, it isn’t that simple. The reality is often more emotionally and physically complex. Some cancer survivors find they can’t or don’t want to go back to how life was before their treatment.

The challenge of finding a new normal or learning to balance in a new world. The search for balance is not one that you can complete in the first days or weeks after your treatment has ended. You have to understand that this will be a process and the process itself will be as valuable as the goal.

Picture a large ball. A long plank of wood lies across the top of the ball. I’m standing on top trying to keep my balance. Even with my arms outstretched and my feet planted about six inches apart, I teeter-totter, back and forth – leaning first slightly to the left and then to the right. What I am trying to keep in balance is forgetting and remember , hope and despair, work and play.

Celebrating a holiday with family, brainstorming with colleagues, dining out with my husband and friends, or becoming engrossed in a juicy novel can, for just a nanosecond, obliterate the truth from my mind. Oh, how I would love to linger in that blissful forgetfulness. But the reality of my diagnosis creeps back into my consciousness. I’m flooded with vivid images I’d recent surgeries, doctors’ appointments, procedures, lab work, MRI’s and hormone treatments. To once again, I regain balance, I force myself to close the cover of that unwanted, imaginary photo albums.

To tilt toward hope, I give myself one of those “think positive” pep talks. I repeat to myself over and over, “Your cancer was found early. You had all the tissue is grows in, removed. You’re helping yourself by eating right and exercising daily. You’re taking Tamoxifen daily and suffering the affects to stay cancer free. Sometimes, it works. But sometimes, even these compelling words fail to ward off despair. Gnawing apprehension throws me off balance. So, that’s when us use my lifelines to prevent myself from totally succumbing to abject fear. I call upon the wisdom of my friend, “why waste a good day worrying about a possible bad day in the future?” Agreeing that I will not allow cancer to rob me of today, I regain balance.

Creating your own new life means finding balance in all parts of it. There will be days when you will fall. There will be days when you are shaky. But you can be certain that, over time, there will be more and more days when you stand straight and steady. Many women feel that breast cancer has given them a second chance. Grab it and hold on for dear life.

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