Finding the Connection
I’ve been on the hunt for a while, looking for a great place to process my cancer-related 'stuff.' I want to engage with people who know cancer and 'get it', people who can remind me I’m not alone even when it feels like it. After a few misfires, I found a gorgeous little group that felt like home within five minutes. They’re of all ages, with all kinds of loss and all kinds of cancer - some present, some past, some relapsing, some way past their predicted demise - but all seeking to consciously open themselves up to real genuine healing. My favorite gift walked in the second week I joined them - a woman who gave me the sense I was looking in the mirror - fresh out of chemo, same age and same barely-there hair. Talk about not feeling so alone anymore. In our meeting this week I shared the drama of my first follow-up screening. I told them about being a full-fledged basket case for four days before my appointment, paralyzed by fear so big I couldn’t even come close to stomaching it. I must have been unconsciously trying to digest all the possibilities of all the screenings I’ll ever get. Not very wise, though I see now it was just another honest expression of trying to feel safe. Brad, the creator of the group and a cancer survivor himself, asked, “So how well do you think you handled all that fear?” “Crappy,” I said, “I’ve known for a long time the answer is to ‘lean in’ and allow it and it will eventually dissipate, but I just couldn’t get there all the way - it was so big and so intense.” After noting the self judgment I was lost in, he responded, ”What about your courage, Mer - the courage to go anyway, to face it, even in the midst of the overwhelming fear? That’s what’s remarkable, and what you might want to give yourself credit for.” Isn’t it a beautiful thing, being called back to love? As we talked about falling into the mental trap of equating death with failure, someone offered, “Want to get over the fear of dying? Write your own obituary. The sooner you get over your own death, the sooner you can start living for real.” Wow does this resonate. My cancer experience has birthed inklings of this - moments when I feel completely free to choose what I really want, and it feels amazing. “But what about my kids?” I had to confess, “That’s the one part of my own death I can’t seem to ‘get over’.” Someone joked that staying alive is no guarantee that our kids won’t go off the deep end :) As I listened to the woman next to me talk about losing her husband over 20 years ago to a rock climbing accident and leaving her with five little kids, I fell in love with the honesty in her face and her genuine acceptance of life. The subtle joy she carried spoke to me - that every single scenario really is okay and brings with it the possibility of being joyful, even in the face of gut-wrenching loss. Before our time was up, I shared one other moment from my week. When I asked God what he wanted to say to me a few nights ago, this is what I got; ”You’ve had an amazing year.” Amazing is not a word I’d yet attached to the last year of my life, but it is a word that truly gives the clearest lens to my experience. I could tell, when I shared it, that it resonated with everyone in the circle who’d been in my proverbial shoes. We really are all connected, and waking up to it makes life so much easier. I’m grateful for brave and beautiful people who help us remember that we are not alone, and that we're brave and beautiful too.