October is breast cancer awareness month.
We probably all know that by now. It’s been all over the news for a few years now.
But if you are anything like me, sometimes things don’t strike a cord until they directly affect us.
For me that day of reckoning came in January 2014.
Not that there hadn’t been warning shots.
My grandmother had it back in the 1970s when I shudder to even think of how provincial her treatment options were at the time.
Then my mother was diagnosed in 2009 and again in 2013.
Times were different then, and people were different. These steel magnolia women forged through much like they did everything else, with little fanfare or attention to themselves.
I was aware of the family history but not equipped to handle the words when they applied to me.
Isn’t that just like life, though? We hear things differently when they pertain to others.
When it’s about us, though, suddenly it’s priority status and the rest of the world comes to a grinding halt.
I talk with people all the time and one of the common threads is that no amount of preparation or bracing ever fully prepares us for some things — like death or diagnoses.
Surely there are all sorts of cancers, and it never gets easier to learn that those we know or love are faced with fighting such a battle.
If I learned nothing else during my own journey, it is to put things in perspective.
Life’s interruptions do not need to consume us. In fact, they can serve as object lessons.
Mine came in the form of abundant and friends to strangers and folks in this community who simply cared.
Prayer warriors — some I’m sure I will never meet — lifted my name up to get through the foggy maze that comes with such a health crisis.They worked. Each prayer contributed to my own well-being, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Then again, my husband, Ron, told me at the outset this would happen.
“God better get ready,” he said soon after the diagnosis was handed down. “He’s going to be inundated with prayers.”
Not to be facetious because surely this was quite the crossroads in my life. One of the by-products was a keener awareness of what mattered, what did not, how to spend my time and where to dwell, or not dwell as the case may be.
The gifts continue to multiply out, strange as that may seen. As much as I found myself a member of a club I never wanted to join — cancer patient and ultimately cancer survivor — it is also something I am today quite proud of, since so many wonderful, strong, courageous people fill this category and have been shining examples to me over the years.
In the aftermath of having cancer, we have two choices: to resume life as we knew it before everything changed, or pick up the mantle and pass along all the kindnesses, all the encouragement and all the hope you have been given in hopes of helping others now in those same trenches.
The latter is what I opted to do. I feel it is a responsibility.
When we are provided with so much, it is imperative to pass it along.
None of us were created to live in a vacuum. So, pun intended, suck it up and pay forward everything you have been given. No one knows how long we will be here — make sure you don’t leave this Earth with all your potential intact.
Whether it be breast cancer or any other type, protect your own health and muster up enough compassion to support others going through it.