Five Years from diagnosis
“So much of faith has so little to do with belief, and so much to do with acceptance.”
-- Christian Wiman’
I was talking with a friend the other day about how we cope with the uncertainty of illness. And about how cancer makes us feel so vulnerable. Her fear and paranoia about a possible (although unlikely) return of cancer was palpable. Because once our world is shaken with a previously unfathomable diagnosis it is hard to return to confidence or to that state of blissful ignorance we once had toward our health. Instead we become vigilant, noticing every little cramp and shadow in our bodies. Nothing is taken for granted again.
In some ways, that notion is a good thing. We don't want to live an indifferent life. But, conversely, the idea that we can take nothing for granted might create an obsessiveness of worry. Fretting runs us in the opposite direction of a contented life. It's a bit of a conundrum. and also a balancing act. We need to be mindful of our health but also we want to regrow our confidence in life, rebuild faith in our bodies and find acceptance in the new normal of life after cancer diagnosis.
Later that night, my son and I had a conversation about how to overcome the challenges that arise in life and why some people bounce back better from adversity than others. No one lives an easy life. There will always be storms. They come from within us as well as from without. It’s a tremendous obligation to be responsible for your own life. In my struggles and challenges overcoming adversity is really about making peace with whatever situation is before me. It’s how I respond and react that indicates whether I will overcome a particular challenge. I learned this the hard way through my journey with cancer.
But no matter how many lessons I receive in this regard I still feel like a novice — learning again for the first time. There’s an “aha moment” or a “here I am again” moment. And eventually I quit fighting against my perceived obstacle and instead try to return to the practice of acceptance, of acting but not controlling, of breathing. This practice of acceptance builds my resiliency, my buoyancy.
And so I practice, over and over again.
Today is the fifth year anniversary of my diagnosis with stage III cancer. The aggressive cancer threatened my life, caused chronic, impactful consequences, and sometimes still haunts me. But it also set me on a path to Buoyancy. Tonight I go to the Midwest Independent Publishing Association Book Awards Gala. Buoyancy, a memoir is a finalist in the autobiography/memoir category. I am so honored. And so grateful to be here writing these words five years out from my first steps on this journey.