August 20th, 2014
| Survivor: Breast Cancer
Do you remember the day that you found you had cancer? When Uzma heard those five words, her life changed forever. Read more.
On July 15th, I heard the words that pushed me from a life of carefree existence to a life of spiritual liberation.
"I am sorry, it's cancer."
These five words were uttered from the other side of the line, during a phone call that I had been dreading all weekend. My lymph node biopsy was done on a Friday, leaving me about 60 plus hours to contemplate what life held in store for me.
Normally weekends feel short and are over in the blink of an eye but that weekend lasted a lifetime. I had already "seen" my funeral, my mastectomy, chemotherapy treatments, the sickness - all of it. No movie was entertaining enough that weekend, no company was distracting enough. I was walking towards the edge of the cliff and I knew it.
I spent the days reading almost all of the medical articles that I could find about the causes of lympadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes) in the axilla (arm pit), and the physician part of me had concluded with some audacity that the primary resided in breast.
My mind was constructing and deconstructing scenarios all weekend. My hope wasn't that it not be cancer (a little too much confidence in my knowledge and diagnostic abilities caused me to know better) but perhaps the least sinister and in an early stage. It isn't easy when you know that a swollen lymph node if caused by breast cancer is already stage 2.
I hated having that knowledge.
I wanted to be someone who could have been blindly hopeful thinking that swollen lymph nodes came from a nail infection and "the doctors" just wanted to be sure it's nothing. I wanted to be someone who didn't know what having cancer meant in terms of the gruesome treatments, I wanted to be someone who didn't know that if her biopsy samples sank in the container, they are likely to be cancerous (which they did).
But on that day, I was told that my life will be interrupted for a whole year to make room for being a "patient." And that from that day on, I will just have to believe that I will be OK. That I will look for good 'omens' to reassure me, that I will lean on faith more, that I will feel helpless at the loss of control, that I will accept cancer and survivorship as a part of my life, that I will go through an "experience" that will bring awareness. That I will now have to live my entire life tied to the word "cancer" with strings. Strong transparent strings like the ones that hang the puppets - you can't see them but they are there, part of every movement, every gesture, every turn.
It marked the day that my life started in a different way. I experienced a rebirth to a life of awareness that wasn't there before. An awareness of the darkness that comes with truly realizing how alone a human being is, and what it means to be born alone and die alone. An awareness that I am willingly going to get cut, poisoned, and burned because I love life that much. An awareness of how each moment of life carries value and that good things come at a cost. An awareness of the strength that resides within you, the kind of strength that bubbles to the surface only when the pressure is intense and there is only one outlet outwards, flowing out like hot molten lava burning everything in its path, only to bring vitality after cooling down.
So now I consider it to be my second birthday - the birth of my new life. A life that deserves to be celebrated and appreciated, just like any other. A life where I have more faith, more belief and more love but less control, less expectation, less frustration. And a whole lot of peace.
So Happy Belated Second Birthday to me - I sure hope to have many more and if I do, I certainly promise they will be celebrated.
What do you remember about the day you found out you had cancer?
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