Filled to the brim, I have finally begun writing, begun sharing all of my stories. And I can’t stop them. They are all rushing out like the young woman in The Night Garden whose stories were tattooed on her eyelids.
I’m a two-time cancer survivor. That is not an identity that I want to get stuck in, or trip over, or be limited by in any way, but my recent battle with cancer opened my heart and taught me some things that I feel are too important not to share. I’ve co-authored and ghost written eight books, but it’s time to write my own book. I’m starting here. I need to share the amazing insights I’ve had over the last seven months, beginning with when I was first diagnosed with metastasized stage 4 cancer, did not know what kind of cancer it was, and did not know whether I was facing life or death.
It turned out to be life. Because the cancer was from the original breast cancer and was HER2 positive, it was “very treatable,” in the words of my oncologist. Three months of treatments put me back into remission. Ironically, the news that I was cancer free was followed by a battle with depression and fear that I was doomed, that I was going to get it again in a year or two and die. I used to wake up every morning feeling afraid and sad. I’d have to get up out of that bed and literally get a grip on myself.
But over the last two and a half weeks I am finally beginning to feel like I am truly coming back to life, like I am on the threshold of an exciting and creative journey. Only over the last week or so have I really begun to believe I can beat this thing and live a long life. I am still fighting to maintain optimism, but I’m also trying to find out what keeps us alive, what keeps ME alive. Why did I come here? What work did I come here to do? What has kept me from fulfilling my life’s purpose?
I have always been a storyteller. It can take three to five years to write a book, find the right publisher, and get it out there. I can’t wait that long. There’s too much at stake, too much pain in the world, too much need of hope.
A friend of mine told me yesterday that it’s like every cell in my body is filled to the brim with what I’ve learned this year, and that my cells are screaming to share it, to find a creative outlet. She’s right. I can feel it, that fullness. I have so many stories I hardly know where to begin. But we have to begin somewhere.
Ironically, my voice has been hoarse for six months. I do not speak well most of the time, I croak. A storyteller with no voice, who whispers or struggles to be heard, who manages to communicate sometimes through sheer force of personality. That same friend confirmed what I’ve been suspecting for a long time, that I’m not going to get my voice back until I open up my heart and write.
My first battle with breast cancer was seven years ago. It’s crazy that the same cancer metastasized seven years later. I was supposed to be cured—years beyond cured. My oncologist and I were celebrating. But because I believe in a benevolent universe, a universe that is on my side, that has my highest good in mind, no matter what, I had to believe that this was a wakeup call. I had to have faith that there was a purpose to this devastating blow.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have bad days, very bad days. I remember a time a few weeks ago, late at night, when I was feeling weak, frightened, and depressed. That night I had a conversation with God. I told him that I could not forgive Him for what he’d done to me, that it was too cruel, that I did not deserve this suffering. A few days later, I apologized, and I kept going forward. I don’t remember why I apologized, but I remember feeling God/dess’ love and knowing that He/She was not my enemy. At that point, things were slowly starting to turn around.
During a meditation journey last January, I was given a new name, “Fearless Filled with Grace.” I have kept my focus on that name, telling myself over and over again that THIS is the reality. It may be normal to fear, and we all do, but believe me, fear is an illusion. It does not have the substance that love and faith have.
In this blog, I’m going to be moving back and forth in time a great deal. What I’d like to share in my next blog is my turning point, when I hit rock bottom and wrote to my group email list asking for help. I realized that I’d been so sick that I’d become socially isolated (not being able to talk much certainly added to that isolation). People responded and something shifted for me.