celebration · gratitude · second chances

What Would You Do With 5 Extra …

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

acceptance · daily life · gratitude · second chances

Living Right Where You Are

Sometimes I write on a schedule but much of the time, I simply write when I am inspired. Today, I am not only inspired (INSPIRED ME!) but also overcome with joy (JOYFUL BE!).

As a cancer survivor, I have regularly scheduled appointments with my Oncologist. Right now, I see him every six months. Each visit consists of routine blood work, a brief physical exam, and discussion of concerns. I admit the approach of an upcoming appointment clouds my thoughts.

The need for such checkups reminds me of where I have been and renews the fear of what might be.

In truth, the memory of my fight never leaves – I have physical and emotional scars to prove it. But with the passage of time, I have become better at managing my relationship with cancer. I use the term “relationship” because we are indelibly linked. And although I have become the dominant partner (I am stubborn and strong, unwilling to give in to its demands), cancer does hold the power to intimidate me (it is a bit of a bully).

Every new appointment reminds me it is still there. It will always be there. And it can return. Whenever.

But thankfully today was not that day. My doctor granted me another glorious all-clear, and I am off the hook for a few more months!

The true purpose of this post, however, is not to provide a detailed re-hash of my battle. It is a simple plea:

Start living.

Waiting in a cancer treatment center is nothing new to me. I have done it as the frightened, self-defeated, newly-diagnosed woman. I have done it as a post-surgical and chemotherapy dazed patient. I have done it for weekly blood draws, heart scans, drug injections, and intense follow-up visits. I have done it as a hopeful, triumphant, newly-declared-in-remission woman. I now do it as a survivor.

And each time I wait in that room for my name to be called, I am amazed. I see every stage of diagnosis and treatment level. I see young and old. I see caregivers and families. I see front office medical staff, phlebotomists, nurses, and doctors.

I see myself.

In that room, there is talk of tumor markers, cell counts, blood tests, prognoses, and pathology reports. There are people seeking aid, a path to recovery, a chance to return to the mundane, normalcy of life.

But I do not hear or see any of that.

Instead, I listen and look beyond. I hear hushed whispers and quiet laughter. I see brave eyes and remarkable smiles. Amid the presence of pain, there is joy, compassion, strength, kindness, and patience.

There is Peace. There is Life.

The next time you are upset over the ridiculously long line for coffee or angered by the person who cut you off in traffic, remember this: those are inconveniences not problems.

If you currently have steady employment, a roof over your head, meals on the table, family, friends, and good health … rejoice! You are one of the lucky ones.

If you are struggling financially, worried what will happen if the other shoe drops, estranged from someone you love, or battling an illness … rejoice! You are still one of the lucky ones.

Life may not always turn out the way we planned, but that does not mean we should fail to appreciate it. Whether you are in a good or bad place, you can still discover the hidden blessings and joy carried within each moment.

Be awake. Be grateful. Be alive. Right where you are.


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bookshelf · renewal · second chances

Read Free, Inspired Be

I love a good deal, especially a free book! One of mine is currently available as a FREE Kindle Download at Amazon, and I wanted to share.

The Oak Tree holds a special place in my writer heart as it is the first book I finished after my battle with cancer. It is an entirely fictional tale of life, love, and second chances, but more importantly it is a story of celebration and hope. And for a limited time, it is FREE!*

Download. Enjoy. Share.

The Oak Tree

bookoakebook

No Kindle? Download the FREE KINDLE APP FOR PC or FOR ANDROID.

*Offer ends February 25, 2017.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE