What would you do with five extra … seconds, minutes, hours, days, years of life?
Today is important. Yes, every day is special, but July 25th carries an extra layer of special.
Five years ago I was wheeled out of surgery after undergoing a double mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection to remove 21 nodes from my right arm. It was not the end of my battle against breast cancer but in my mind, that day resonated a sense of finality.
My oncologist suggested an alternative treatment where I underwent four months of chemotherapy followed by preventative surgery. So resting in my hospital room meant I had overcome the last big hurdle. There would still be weeks of recovery and more than six months of additional injections, shots, appointments, and scans. But to me, the moment my surgeon came into my room to say he was pleased with the result, I felt the beam of his smile akin to a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
And when he called days later to personally tell me the pathology looked clear, clean, and free of cancer, all I heard was free.
I was free. For the first time that year, cancer did not hold me as its prisoner.
In the aftermath of recovery, I felt re-born. Everything – people, places, experiences – seemed new. My body was forever changed and in the process of rebuilding itself. Energy was limited and fatigue would forever remain a problem. And there were a multitude of other side effects I had to manage and again, many linger. But none of that mattered, especially in the beginning.
I was alive. I was here.
For those who do not know: the five-year mark for any cancer survivor is a really big deal – as in milestone, celebration kind of deal. It is a term doctors and researchers use to compare cases and treatments and ultimately provide statistical prognoses to patients. It holds no guarantee other than to serve as a benchmark – a number to shoot for as a survivor and practitioner – nor does it promise complete remission or mean the cancer will not return.
But reaching five years of survival is this: a gift.
I realize I am fortunate to have time that others who fought just as hard or even harder do not. In many ways, I am living these moments for them as much as for myself.
So, what about the years in between? What came after? Five years of gratitude.
I cannot say that I changed the world in those years, but I definitely changed my world.
FIVE YEARS AGO, I VOWED TO …
love more than hate
laugh more than cry
accept more than judge
SINCE THEN, I HAVE …
told myself yes more than no
said no to certain things so I might say yes to something better
held onto what matters and released what does not
surrounded myself with situations and people who bring out the best in me
found peace in being alone and sought solitude whenever possible
refused to engage in drama or hold grudges
spent my energy on positive, uplifting relationships
realized there is far more out of my control than in
embraced realities and challenges rather than deny them
accepted and celebrated imperfections in myself and others
focused on what I can actually influence or change
counted blessings more than problems
discovered even the gray days were beautiful
snuggled my son every chance I got
spent more time with my husband
traveled and explored extensively with my little family
published (5) additional books and created this blog project
learned to let go of people, things, negativity, the ridiculousness
worked every day to create and maintain the life I envisioned
became spell-bound and amazed at the crazy beauty of it all
In honesty, I have not made the most of every moment – it is impossible to do so. But I have approached my moments differently. I am more aware, attuned to the fact any one might become a memory for my husband, my son, or myself. And I readily admit I am not always a perfect person to those around me. I am human. I face disappointment, discontent, frustration, anger, and every other emotion. But when I do, I not only allow them, I encourage them.
I do not seek perfection. I simply seek peace, knowledge that I have not wasted these days. Because in truth, I do not know if I will get another five – of anything. Sometimes life gives us a second chance but more often it does not.
Make the most of your one chance. Live your moments. Love everything.
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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE