It’s been almost two years to the date since I last posted in my “Find the Good” blog. It was somewhat prophetic. The topic surrounded “Growing Older” with appreciation. A few days later I was diagnosed with cancer. I haven’t posted in THIS blog since. I created a new blog to document my experiences with cancer. I guess I haven’t felt ready to revisit my “Find the Good” blog until now. When I did, it felt like I was witnessing a life that no longer existed. Today, I’m on the other side of hearing those words, “You have cancer”. Today, I can say “I had cancer”. I’m still appreciative of growing older, even more now than I was two years ago.
My business tagline is Life is Hard. Find the Good (hence the name of this blog). I don’t want my first entry back “post cancer” to be a diatribe about how hard life really is (insert finger wagging). No, I’ve come to realize that having lived through surgeries, chemotherapy, hospitalizations and so on, that life is only as hard as you make it. Before cancer, I was making life way too hard. Silly me. Don’t get me wrong. There are some sucky moments in this “being alive thing”. However, there are way, way more moments of beauty and joy. Why don’t we notice?
We have tunnel vision. We spend our time and energy making sure we are ok in the world. This ranges from ensuring our basic needs are met such as food, shelter, and clothing to feeding our ego-driven needs by accumulating stuff, power and prestige. And, more often than not we fall short. We are left with a constant craving. We self-medicate with food, alcohol, pills, and people. We learn to dull our senses in order dull our pain. It works. But, it comes with consequences. We miss noticing the beauty all around us even in the midst of the all-encompassing pain.
Last week, I had my regularly scheduled three-month oncology follow-up. This entails having my blood drawn for a tumor marker that indicates the presence of cancer. I waited for my test results in the aptly named and standing room only waiting room. In moments like these my nervous system goes from Defcon Green to Defcon Red. As I was sitting there, I noticed an African-American woman, maybe in her 60s, also waiting. She looked distressed. She rubbed her forehead. She fidgeted in her chair. She contorted her face in pain. I moved closer to her and asked, “How long have you been waiting?”. “A long time”, she replied. “I’m going to be late for my infusion.” She went on to tell me that she has been living with cancer for over 10 years and it has now spread to her brain. She shared that she had a driver’s test that afternoon and she was worried she would fail. She realized that she certainly didn’t want to endanger others and yet she lives alone and not being able to drive would pose a whole host of problems. How would she get to the grocery store? How would she get to her doctor’s appointments? And, as I was getting ready to attempt to say something supportive, her name was called. I watched her get up and follow the nurse to the blood draw station.
As I sat with her, listening to her story an eery sense of calm came over me. This waiting room was filled with suffering. Yet, in that moment, all I could see was the human spirit at it’s very best. At that moment, I was no longer frightened. Instead, I felt consoled. And, then I heard my name being called. “Leah? Ms. Barrett?”. I got up and followed the nurse to the exam room thinking life is beautiful.