A Journey With Cancer

This was us on 12/3/17, on our way to a friend’s Christmas concert. On 12/4/17, I received biopsy results that I have breast cancer.

Big pause.

Since cancer I have been waking up too early. My brain sometimes gets stuck making and remaking the sentence, “I have cancer and I am the mother of a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old.” The words that follow a cancer diagnosis are important. They speak to our ultimate concerns. Then I pause and breathe the Lord’s Prayer, one breath for each word. Slow.

This morning lying in bed before dawn, I remembered a favorite quote:
“If you own your story you get to write the ending”
-Brene Brown

What if I owned this story? What if I owned it in real time? I sometimes struggle with silencing myself, playing it small, trying to squeeze into spaces that don’t fit. Kind of funny that I’m almost 6 feet tall… hard to squeeze.

Some stories are easier to hide than others or they may need to wait to be told until they are a scar. The thing with cancer is that it often doesn’t let you live it privately. I guess I could try to hide it. But that feels like squeezing again, sending the very real parts of me underground.

I don’t know that I “get to write the ending” to this story in a traditional sense, there is a lot of mystery in where this cancer came from and where it is going.

A friend who is a survivor herself said, “this is a potentially mortal wound Mary Beth, that’s what makes it different from the other wounds you’ve experienced.” Yes, that feels right. I have far less control. One night after a recent surgery I wrote out all the things that I can still do. I needed the reminder.

Cancer has snatched and grabbed at my time, resources, and energy. A rash of medical appointments has replaced time in my daughter’s classroom, interesting work, exciting trainings, and holiday trips. I have cancer paranoia now—it’s around every corner: in my coffee, my hair care products, and the charcoal grill is totally off limits. The small holes in my sense of safety were torn right open.

So, what would it mean to “own” this story? I am a believer that the only way out is through, and that often means saying yes to leaning into the honest, the sometimes heartbreaking and beautiful real. Perhaps one way of owning this could be pounding out the story in real time right here on my laptop. Owning as much of the story as each day allows, leaving hands open, and maybe together we’ll find nuggets of beauty along the way.

I’d love your company.