"There is a story, always ahead of you.
Only gradually do you attach yourself to it
and feed it.
You discover the carapace
that will contain and test your character.
You find in this way the path of your life."
- from Michael Ondaatje's novel "The Cat's Table"
Today I reached a milestone, my final chemotherapy treatment in a maintenance phase of periodic treatments spanning the past fifteen months. I have viewed this last treatment with mixed emotions, anticipating my liberation from the drug’s side effects, while feeling trepidation about the future uncertainty of how my cells will behave once the chemo, my “sentry,” is no longer circulating through my body three months from now. I will certainly focus on visualizing my cells contently, obediently and properly going about their tasks in as healthy of an environment as I can nurture! As I anticipate my freedom from physical side effects, that anticipation is somewhat tempered by the realization that freeing myself from emotional side effects will be a much lengthier process.
In the days leading up to yesterday’s treatment, I’d been reflecting on my cancer experience, on what it has meant to me, how it has impacted my life, where it will lead me. With respect to how each cancer survivor views their own very personal experience, I confess I am not in the camp where the experience is defined as a “gift” or “blessing.” Instead, I’ve decided I can best describe my cancer experience as a catalyst, and if there are gifts or blessings to be acknowledged, they are the many discoveries, opportunities, improvements and subtle shifts as well as major changes emerging from this catalyst.
On contemplating how to view my life as a survivor looking forward, what seems to fit best is the concept of emergence, “the process of coming into being.” As I emerge from my “tunnel” of treatment, I will be coming into being with…
|My inner little girl is finally reaching "Emergence" (mixed media collage),|
ink, card stock, glitter paper, yarn, thread, bead, gems
An assurance, after maneuvering through this rough patch, that I am strong enough to navigate through any rocky territory I may encounter on life’s journey.
A newfound ability to quiet my head, so I can listen to and be guided by my heart’s wisdom.
A greater belief in miracles, in dreams becoming realities, in finding an entry point into the realm of possibility.
An awakened, energized creative spirit.
A keener inner compass for seeking and finding inspiration and insight.
A more adventurous approach to trying something new, experimenting and exploring.
A lasting, deeply heartfelt gratitude for the love and support of family, friends and acquaintances, the competence and compassion of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel (who have kindly treated me not only as a patient, but as a person), each helping hand, listening ear, supportive shoulder, caring heart, thoughtful gesture…all are ingredients in the fuel that has kept me moving forward.
A growing urge to initiate more ripples, to contribute to building connectivity and community, to making some differences, small as they may be, in this world we all share.
An ongoing commitment to healing, to sharing my healing journey and to trying to help others along the way.
An intensified passion for striving to live life more mindfully, simply, yet fully.
I realize I am merely one humble storyteller amidst many, just one of countless cancer survivors (and many other types of survivors) sharing their journey along a pathway of healing, change and growth. Despite having only one small voice, I feel compelled to express, to share. Perhaps it’s blending that new belief in possibility with this urge to make a difference…perhaps it will be possible to make a true difference? This possibility is what motivates me to continue writing and speaking openly about my journey, what offers me emotional healing, what provides me with a meaningful sense of purpose, what defines part of the “emerging me.”
Today, I write with appreciation from the depths of my heart to all who have been sources of support and encouragement along the way and gratitude beyond words for reaching today's milestone…in celebration of my emergence, in honor of and empathy for those who have endured and/or are enduring their own challenging battle and in remembrance of those who have moved on beyond their battle here in this physical world.
Today, I celebrate life!