I hope you’ll join me as I celebrate 24 years of cancer free in a live Twitter party tonight at 8 p.m. CT. There will be tons of giveaways! We’ll have a chance to give to a really great organization, Compassion that Compels, that helps women in the battle with cancer some love. (Pictured: Compassion that Compels bag delivered just when this beautiful survivor needed it!)
Hash tag: #liveinthenow Will you be there? I hope so!
Years ago when a doctor told me that I had cancer, my life came to a screeching halt. I had a night class on Monday. I was scheduled to bring snacks to my kiddos soccer team on Tuesday. I worked full-time. I was a volunteer at my church. I had three kids. I was a wife.
I’m busy. . . so, let’s just do this another time, okay?
That response didn’t make sense in light of the heavy news I received that day, but it did describe my life.
So when I sat with my friend recently after her diagnosis, I completely understood when she said that she doesn’t have time for cancer. She has things to do, a full calendar, and people depending on her.
It’s scary enough to deal with the unexpected diagnosis but the thought that life as you know it will change over night, well that’s scary too.
After wrapping my arms around her and weeping over the news, I told her the one thing I wished someone would have told me all those years ago. Yes, it’s hard. It’s not your choice. It can be one of the hardest seasons of your life. .
. . but you might be surprised at what you gain.
The day that they wheeled me into surgery and later as I went through chemo and radiation, I had no choice but to slow down. I had no choice but to surrender my schedule. I had no choice but to reevaluate what mattered because suddenly the hundred things that pulled at me on a daily basis weren’t near as important as others.
Cancer gave me clarity.
It’s a gift that continues to impact my life nearly twenty-five years later. It shapes the way I make my choices. It tells me when I need to slow down.
These are the five surprises I found tucked away in a cloud of diagnosis, surgeries, treatment, uncertainty and healing.
I learned what mattered
Richard, Melissa, Ryan, and Leslie — they mattered.
Close family members that wrapped around us close — yep, they were pretty important.
My faith — oh, my goodness, it was essential.
Good friends that mowed our lawn, took my young children on chemo days, fed us until Richard gained an extra 20 pounds, and told corny jokes that made me laugh — they were high on the priority list.
My super busy schedule? Hmm. Not so much.
Things that once consumed my time and thoughts fell away. People matter. God matters. Everything else falls below that line.
I stopped blaming others for my rushed life
Nobody can force you to slow down but you.
Being a mom kept me busy. Certainly, my job and ministry and volunteer work were important. Yet I had to admit that I piled things into my life like there was no bottom.
The first time I truly felt rested was six weeks into chemo. Cancer forced me to take care of myself. To treat my body as if it wasn’t dispensable. To go to sleep when I was tired. It taught me that I could say no to things so that I could say yes to what mattered.
There were some really silly pressures that fell away, like taking my kids out of year-round soccer.
“She’s going to be a soccer star one day. What about scholarships? She really needs to play year-round sports if she’s going to succeed.”
I learned that I could say, “She’s 8. She’ll be okay.”
Saying no does disappoint people (just as I feared) but when I stepped away from assignments that weren’t mine or schedule-packed activities that exhausted all of us, we could all just breathe.
I learned that “one day” begins today
It was my mantra at that time. One day I’ll write about stuff that I love. One day I’ll have more time. One day, when I’m not so busy I’ll do this or that, or I’ll follow God’s leading.
When you are told that you have a 10-40% chance of surviving cancer, suddenly “one day” has an entirely different meaning.
One day begins today.
When treatment ended I invested hope and life into my dreams. I took baby steps toward my “one day” goals.
I discovered that play is as important as work
Before cancer I worried whether the bed was made.
After, I jumped on the bed with my kids.
Before cancer I saw exercise as a must-do.
After, I saw it as an opportunity to live healthy and have fun.
Before cancer, I saw play as something that you do when all the work is done.
Afterwards I savored the joy of sheer play.
I began to treasure my wrinkles
This was the biggest surprise of all. It didn’t happen right away. I was all of 31 when I was diagnosed with Stage 2B cancer.
This happened years later. I looked in the mirror and saw myself aging. Wrinkles around my eyes. One wrinkle just under my nose. A few pounds around my waistline.
Do you know what those wrinkles meant?
I was given one more year to love Richard. One more year to love my son and my daughters. One more year to grow as a person. One more year to pursue my passion. One more year to grow wiser. One more year to learn through my mistakes. One more year to jump on the bed — now with my grandchildren.
I’ll buy those fancy creams but I’ll also point to my wrinkles and call them what they are. . . life lived.
You don’t have to have cancer to enjoy these five surprising gifts.
Take a few minutes and ask yourself these questions. What is one change you can make beginning today?
- Am I rested? Why not?
- Do I take time to enjoy the small and treasured things around me?
- Did I laugh today? If not, why not?
- Have I piled things on my to-do list without weighing their worth (or cost)?
- Do I feel pressured to add activities to my family calendar? If so, how can we compromise as a family to have more down time?
- Do I say no so that I can say yes to what matters?