A new logo … a new theatre … the biggest audience … another amazing cast! The 2019 performance of S.T.A.R.S. was one for the record books!
My husband died suddenly in 2011. I found myself, after 15 years of being at home with my children, parenting alone, with a part-time job that would never support our lifestyle. There was nowhere for all the crazy, and all the fear, to go but down on paper. As a writer, it was my only outlet.
I remember crawling into bed on the evening of my diagnosis to cuddle with my then 3 year old daughter. I stroked her hair and sang softly to her as I had done so many nights before, and all that kept running through my head was, “She’s not going to remember me.”
After my diagnosis 12 years ago, my initial response was, “well let’s go!” I just wanted to start my treatment and get well. I had no idea that stage IV was the final stage. That there would be days where I just wanted to give up, days where I felt hopeless and days where my best friend kept added hope to my life.
“You are not famous enough to write a book about cancer.”
Although not phrased with those exact words, the inference was there. Loud and clear. From other bloggers. From publishing agents. From authors. From experts in the industry. They didn’t mean to be cruel, they wanted me to be realistic.
My battle was more of a roller coaster. Sometimes I was up, sometimes I was down, sometimes I was careening towards death, and other times I was chug, chug, chugging out of a quagmire of depression. That’s the thing about cancer, it challenges us to rise up even from the deepest pits of despair, and by rise up, I don’t just mean be strong.
My 2nd Act came together by meeting so many women who didn’t have support while going through treatment. I wanted to find a way to help. Starting my charity, Girls Love Mail, combined my love for letters and my desire to encourage other women. It was one of those ah-ha moments.
I tend to dream big and my brain doesn’t seem to stop! I want to create a mind shift in the way we think about treating breast cancer, focusing more of our energy and resources on prevention. I want to help women and their loved ones not have to go through this horrifying disease!
There were a few dark moments, but what stands out is the not knowing. Would I live? Because inside I felt like I was dying, especially laying there in bed after a chemo treatment. So many questions, and I felt dark inside, with those closest to me not understanding what I was trying to say.
There are so many things that I have learned as a cancer survivor for which I am grateful, but perhaps the most important is understanding the importance of living an authentic life, being authentic and surrounding myself with authentic people.
Wasting time and energy is no longer tolerable to me. Dealing with people and issues who or that have no real purpose to promoting the greater good – love – are no longer a part of my life.
I recognized I had been given a 2nd Act, but shouldn’t stop there, not at mere acknowledgment. I needed to put it into verb-form: into action. I am now so much more appreciative and aware of life’s blessings, verbalizing it frequently. You quickly learn that it’s not about the what (what I do, what I have, what people think, what I accomplish), but rather the who that I have in my life (God, family, friends)!
The first was a dragonfly that graced me with its presence as I was going through treatment. It flew over my balcony, and repeatedly fluttered against my door as if trying to come in. I have never seen a dragonfly this close or act this way before. I now know that the dragonfly is the symbol of wisdom, change, and perhaps, the sign to live differently. This was a huge wake up call for me. It was what I needed to see to tell me it’s time to move forward, move on and accept the change that cancer has thrown into my life.
After being told I had a rare and incurable cancer, I decided to continue, and even increase, my efforts of sharing my gifts of learning, speaking, and communicating to serve others.
For me, that summer of my despair became the summer of my determination, because I believed I could make a difference in the lives of others.
Have you ever seen that greeting card with a little girl on the front, standing tall, legs splayed open hands on her hips that reads, “She thought she could so she did.”
As a Michigander, I claimed this quote from Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or your can’t, you’re right.” I thought I could and I did, and you can too.