A few months ago, if you had asked me to describe my life, I would’ve told you I was busy: busy transitioning to a new job, busy preparing a presentation for a conference, busy managing social media and moderating a panel for a board I am on, busy networking, busy hanging out with friends, busy dating (or deciding not to date), busy going to the gym (or deciding not to go to the gym), busy going to yoga, busy napping … busy … busy …. busy.
Now when I say I’m busy, I really mean it. Seriously, my life a few months ago felt like such luxury. I had many projects, tasks, and activities to manage, but I loved it all. I really LOVED my life. I really loved myself. When friends were asking me for life updates, I told them that I was the coolest person I knew. I meant that both seriously and not so seriously.
For friends who had known me a long time, they knew that I had gone through my share of unexpected adventures with job transitions, promotions at work and volunteering as a hotline counselor for a rape crisis center, relationship changes, deaths and health issues among people close to me, and my own health issues even before breast cancer.
People are used to me persisting. In some ways, I wonder if that’s why it’s hard for some individuals to understand how concerned I am about the future.
I do career advising for a living. On six occasions over the course of nine days, somebody mentioned cancer. A few people were motivated to pursue a health profession because someone close to them had cancer, and others already had jobs related to the research and treatment of cancer. During a workshop that I was co-facilitating, my co-presenter provided a case study to our audience, and the topic was breast cancer … Of course it was.
Last week, I had six appointments and one support group related to cancer. Why so many appointments? Aside from meeting with doctors, I opted to meet with a social worker and a chaplain. I understand the Eight Dimensions of Wellness and believe that health should be supported holistically with those dimensions in mind.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough.
When I haven’t been at cancer-related appointments or been going to work (I still go to my full-time job), I’ve been calling insurance to get answers (or not get answers) related to my first wave of bills. I’ve been shopping for post-op bras and camisoles. I’ve been sorting through mastectomy pillows and recovery clothing from breast cancer survivors. It has been both comforting and overwhelming to navigate this process. So much of the practical knowledge that I am learning—medical options, financial resources, and the healthcare system—has been coming from survivors more than doctors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals. It makes me wonder how people navigate a diagnosis when they do not know other people who have lived it.
In addition to navigating my diagnosis and healthcare, I am processing my own emotions about the support and gifts that I am receiving. Since I shared my news with others, I have gotten three gift cards, three plants (which I am trying my best to keep alive), two candles (which smell lovely, but I am scared to light), two lip balms, witch hazel, three bottles of nail polish, a headband, a shawl (in the picture above), two sets of essential oils, a diffuser, and nine sheets of Scripture.
Nine sheets of Scripture? Yes, one of my friends went to Christian school with me from kindergarten to eighth grade. She sent me a care package that included 32 passages from the Bible.
I must say: I am so grateful to receive so much love and such beautiful presents … Heck, these presents for getting cancer are better than some of my birthday gifts … At the same time, nobody has thought to send me 32 passages for any occasion before. In the past, a family member might have written one to three Bible verses in a birthday or graduation card … but never 32 passages … Is my life so fragile now that I’m getting 32 passages of Scripture? … The love I am receiving from others is both inspiring and sobering.
Ultimately, all of our lives are fragile, but it takes something major to remind us of this fact. Lately, I’ve been really busy contemplating that.