When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was a married mom of a five- and six-year-old and running two child care centers. I did not have time to eat, let alone to deal with a cancer diagnosis. I never thought I would be someone who got cancer. That stuff happened to other people, not to me. I was terrified. I made promises to myself that day. I also made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and vowed to fight as hard as I could. I wasn’t ready to leave them.
Of course, I worried about my businesses too. I put my heart and soul and a million hours into my career. I planned to work through my treatment. I wasn’t going to let even cancer slow me down. No way. Then, my oncologist told me I shouldn’t work during treatment. I was surrounded by children, it was cold and flu season, and I would have a compromised immune system. I was mad, and sad, and scared all at once. What was I going to do with myself?
I suddenly had time. There were doctor appointments and cancer treatments and side effects to contend with, but I had extra time on my hands. When I wasn’t sleeping off the chemo, I had time to do what I never had time to do. Read. Bake. Write. I never posted that I was sick on social media, but I did start a private Facebook page to keep my family and friends updated. Because I always loved writing, my posts weren’t just medical updates and factual information. I wrote descriptively about my treatment, how I was feeling, and the lessons I was learning along the way. I discovered writing again, something I used to do all the time. I wrote short stories and poems as a child. I journaled from the time I could write up until young adulthood. Then life got in the way. I went to school. I had a career. I got married. I had kids. Finding time to write was never impossible, but I didn’t make it a priority.
Cancer gave me that opportunity. As much as I enjoyed writing, my friends and family enjoyed reading my posts too. My dear friend, an oncology nurse at the time, suggested I write a book to help other cancer patients. I was knee-deep in chemotherapy treatment and looking forward to a double mastectomy. I appreciated the confidence but didn’t take her seriously. It took a few more nudges and a few more years to get there.
Cancer gave me a new perspective. I used to come home from work, get through dinner, and work some more. And maybe mop the floor at midnight, because that was the only time I had to do it. I drove my kids to school, to the soccer games, and to the birthday parties, but my mind was a step or two ahead, on whatever came next, never truly “in the moment”. Cancer changed that.
I stopped short of saying cancer was a ‘gift’ because no one wanted to unwrap a big old box of cancer, but cancer was an excellent teacher – one of those teachers you didn’t like, but you knew they knew their stuff. At first, I was an unwilling student, but I eventually found my seat and started to listen – and look, and see, and touch. Life opened up for me. I used to be along for the ride, in a hurry to get to the next stop, but now I was finally an active participant in my own life. It felt good.
Everything about my cancer diagnosis seemed a carefully planned situation. I saw how God put people in my life and set things in motion well before the cancer bomb dropped. With each new challenge, I felt God right there with me every step of the way. My faith deepened. I trusted God with my life, with my family, with everything — even when none of it made sense.
Treatment was tough, but I got through it with God’s help and with the love and support of all the people He placed in my life. When I rang that bell at my last radiation treatment, I started over as a completely different person. God changed my heart. I was excited to finally live the life God planned for me. I stumbled my way through with a little more wisdom, an open heart, and fresh eyes. I was done with cancer and I looked forward to riding off into the sunset. God had other plans. A couple years later, I suffered another blow.
Another diagnosis. Another test of faith. Another learning experience.
I had enough of the testing and the learning, but I wasn’t the kind of person who curled up on the couch and cried when things got hard. My Dad taught me better than that. I wasn’t sure how I would handle it, but I knew God would provide the strength, knowledge, and support I needed.
How did I live the rest of your life when I knew ‘the rest’ wasn’t as long as I thought? How did I find joy in the pain? How did I find hope when the future looked so bleak?
I didn’t have the answers. I didn’t have it figured out. But I told my story.
I shared my experience to help others. I didn’t want people to miss the good because they were tripped up on the bad. I didn’t want people to waste precious time worrying about things that didn’t matter while letting the important things slip through their fingers. People thought they had to have it all figured out but they didn’t. God had a plan. We had to learn to trust Him, even when it was hard.
I mopped my floor at midnight. I missed the birthday party making sure everything went as planned. I put work before family. I put just about everything before my marriage. I put perfection over being present.
I had it all wrong. But I knew better now.
As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Not everyone had cancer, but everyone had something.
I felt called to write this book. I wanted to share what I learned so you would know better too. And do better, a little sooner than I did, without the cancer part.
I learned the good stuff wasn’t always the big stuff. I didn’t need a bucket list. I could always find joy. I poured my heart onto the pages of this book. I prayed my words would settle into your heart; and in some small way, might help you find joy in your in-between moments too.
If you are interested in pre-ordering my book, please click on the image below. For a limited time, you can get free shipping and receive the book before it launches in October.
As always, thank you for reading LifeConfetti.