grateful amazement

finding wonder…everywhere.

After the Cupcakes, Gratitude

{This past October, I was honored to share my cancer story at an awesome annual Run/Walk for Breast Cancer Awareness. As I lick the frosting off my fingers from yesterday’s Cupcakes of Celebration, I think posting this *revised* version of my notes from that evening is a great way to finish up this series on the blog. Thank you again for your presence here. It means a lot.}

When I think about my cancer journey, there is one word that keeps resonating in my mind. It won’t leave me alone. It crashes in while I attempt to recall dates and details that I hope will help paint the picture of this path I’ve been on since July of 2010. It not-so-gently nudges itself to the front of the line as I try to corral the things that I thought may frame that picture in a nice, neat way.

I mean, when someone asks you to share the story of the day your life took a sharp left turn into the path of a careening cancer diagnosis, there’s a part of you that wants to be able to wrap it up all shiny and pretty. To make sense of it in your own mind so that you can make sense of it for a room full of people. The thing is, though, cancer – in my case, breast cancer – isn’t shiny or pretty. And there’s very little about it that makes much sense. Especially when you’re in the middle of it.

What is that word – that pushy, bossy word that’s so noisily bouncing all around my mind?

Gratitude.

Unexpected, right?

But then again…maybe not.

You see, I’m grateful for the friend who was my walking buddy during that summer of 2010. When she found out that I had been putting off my annual mammogram, she made me promise to make the appointment…and to text her as soon as that mission was accomplished. She is a breast cancer survivor herself and she knew full well the importance of keeping up with that annual screening.

I’m grateful for the God whisper my heart heard in the changing room as I waited for the radiology tech to take me back to be tested. I really feel like He knew that my heart and mind needed the cushion of His whisper to face what was coming. You know what He whispered? ‘They’re going to find something, but you’re going to be okay.’ So grateful.

I’m grateful for all the advances in testing and diagnosing and treating that were in place four years ago. And I’m so grateful for all the research and development that have taken place since then so that the women and men whose diagnoses are more recent have even better care than the absolute stellar, gold star care I received.

I’m grateful for the surgeon who performed the lumpectomy…as well as the mastectomy I ended up having to have when the margins weren’t clear of cancer after the lumpectomy.

I’m grateful for the amazing oncologist I have. They say laughter is the best medicine, and I honestly believe that. He and I have laughed more than I ever thought possible. What a gift in the middle of a storm, right?

I’m grateful for the terrific oncology nurses who put up with all my questions and concerns so patiently as I underwent a year of chemotherapy. Their gracious care made sitting there while that medicine dripped into my veins so much easier.

I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to participate in a clinical study as part of the treatment I received. To know that maybe something I went through can serve to help those who come along behind me on this crazy, twisty path is a real blessing to me.

I’m grateful for CaringBridge. I’m thankful that I had a place to record the ups and downs and ins and outs of the everyday Living with Cancer. You think it’s seared into your memory and that you’ll never forget, but there’s so much I’ve forgotten…or maybe it’s just that I haven’t thought about it at that level for so long… It’s good to have it all in black and white. To be able to go back and remember.

I’m grateful for my church family and my sweet friends who came alongside me and my family to share our burdens – practical things like cooking, cleaning, and getting my then school-aged girls to and from things when it was just too much for me because of the chemo, as well as the spiritual and emotional care each of us received. There aren’t enough Thank You cards in the world to properly express just how much we appreciated it all.

I’m grateful for my plastic surgeon. In 2012, I elected to have a prophylactic mastectomy and to start the reconstruction process. He’s very good at his job and I’m very grateful for his work. For my 5th cancerversary (the anniversary of my diagnosis), I’m going to buy myself a Tshirt that says ‘Of course they’re fake. The real ones tried to kill me.’ And I’m going to wear it proudly.

I’m grateful for my daughters…I have four. They were 19, 17, 15, and 13 when I was diagnosed. They were each so strong and brave and understanding when I couldn’t make it to their concerts or games…when I couldn’t decorate the house for Christmas that first year. It was really humbling to know that they were seeing Mom in a light that was sometimes harsh and laced with more reality than teenagers should have to face. They are my cheerleaders. And, this year, they’re 24, 22, 20, and 18…and none of them live at home anymore. Time flies. (And so do children, apparently.)

I’m grateful for my husband. We celebrated our 25th anniversary in December. And, even though it hasn’t been easy, it’s been good. He was with me at every appointment, every test, every chemo session. He’s been by my side through 5 cancer-related surgeries. He’s been patient and present and I’m super-grateful for that.

I’m grateful to be able to say that I’m a 5-year survivor of very aggressive Stage 3 breast cancer. I’ve technically been cancer-free since September of 2010 when the surgeon removed my breast. And, today, I live each day grateful.

So, you see…gratitude is the perfect word, don’t you think?

I’d love it if you – or someone you love – would make sure to be proactive and get your mammogram scheduled. Follow through with it and keep up-to-date on your screenings. The cancer I had could only be seen on a mammogram…it wasn’t a lump or a dimple. That mammogram saved my life. One could save yours, too.

Be brave and get it done.

You’ll be grateful you did.

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