Yesterday was the anniversary of one of the most significant life-changing decisions that I have thus far followed through on. Bigger than decisions like marriage, career, divorce or moving across the country. Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of my bilateral mastectomy. My pragmatism and intuition told me that cutting to the chase, although having “just” stage zero breast cancer, was the right think to do. While some tried saying that I was having a hysterical ‘knee-jerk’ reaction, I knew better.
I had a seriously stacked genetic breast cancer tree, even though I tested negative for the BRACA gene. My daily struggles with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue are serious. My chances of rebounding well after the traditional breast cancer regimen — lumpectomy and rounds of radiation — well, they didn’t look good for me.
On a good day, I was already functioning on a healthy radiation patient’s downward slope. And, after reading and discussing my odds with doctors, of them finally being stacked higher in my favor if I was free of any ticking time bombs on my body? I knew a bilateral was the way to go. And after the surgery, it was found that the “healthy” breast was full of cancer cells. I made the right choice.
Now four years after that, how am I doing? I’m content with life. I’m happy. And, that’s largely because of my friends, family and framily.
At some point during my trek through breast cancer, as a patient or now as a survivor, they became huge contributors to my overall quality of life. Whether they’ve shared support, reflection, an ass-kicking of reality, or, some uproarious laughter — they’ve been an integral part of my life feeling blessed and rich. They’re actively thanked for that, quite often.
As this anniversary had been approaching I kept finding myself asking, “What has having had cancer done to my life? What have I learned? And, how have I subsequently grown from that?”
Annie treated me to a “Candied Skull” painting party. Lots of fun!
For certain, this is what I’ve learned is important to my life:
Treasuring high-quality friends is paramount.
People with integrity and honor are like rare treasures. When they flow through your life, honor them with your respect, support, honesty, laughter and love whenever possible. Be sure and spontaneously remind them just how wonderfully they make your life sparkle.
Peacefully letting go of toxic acquaintances is paramount.
If someone proves themselves to be toxic, I do my best to just let them go in peace. It took a while to learn to do this. It also took a while to learn how to do this.
I am actively working on embracing that ‘everybody is at where they’re at.’ It doesn’t make anyone good or bad. It just becomes more a matter as to if I can make a healthy contribution to their lives, and them to mine.
Everyone deserves a fair chance. But if someone proves to not be a good mesh into my life? I’ve learned that it’s far healthier to let them go — for me and for them. I give thanks for whatever was good within them and then I let them go.
“Lucky Luke” resting at the reservoir.
Consciously living in a state of gratitude is paramount.
This one is super simple … Be thankful for what you do have. Really, that’s it.
No walking around with Daisies falling out of your brains and butterflies kissing your footprints kind of bliss. Focus on what you do have, be thankful for it.
Did you wake up today? Did you walk to the bathroom on your own? Where you able to go to the bathroom on your own? Can you bathe yourself? Can you fix yourself a sandwich? Do you have shoes on your feet, proper clothing for a season? Some change in your pocket, a roof over your head?
No matter how bad it gets, if you can answer “yes” to any of those questions — you have it far better than millions of other human beings who woke up today do. For, someone out there today would give anything to bask in your good fortune.
Told ya it was simple.
Having a sense of humor is paramount.
My sense of humor is my number one coping skill. Scientifically speaking, there is all kinds of research out there that supports that laughter does all kinds of wonderful things for our bodies. No matter how bleak a situation may be, if I can find a sliver of humor in it, I’ll have experienced a ray of hope.
Humor has gotten me through some tough spots in life. Well, okay, it’s gotten me into some too. But that’s beside the point!
♦ ♦ ♦
So, how did I celebrate my 4th anniversary yesterday? It began with some Allman Brother’s tunes blasting through my morning coffee as I got ready to seize a balmy 70ºF fall’s day with a ride on “Lucky Luke” — I gave thanks for all of my friends, family and of course, my bike! I had a gorgeous two+ hour ride on the bike and later a fun evening at a painting party with my friend, Annie. It made for a most lovely anniversary day.
Small details of a reservoir storm drain.
One last note … I’d like to make sure that this is left in my written trail of remembrance … Know that every nanosecond of your positive contribution to someone’s life really does matter. Keep on spreading that life-affirming manure, ’cause it really does count.