I grimaced inside when in an attempt to comfort me, people would mention that there would be Gifts, unknown to me now, that this cancer diagnosis would bestow upon me. How could any of this be seen as a gift?! For my readers who know of someone newly diagnosed, please note that this is not something easily heard, not a warm and fuzzy sentiment to wrap your loved one up in. Perhaps at a loss for what to say, just be present. Ask, “What can I do right now to help you?” Let them know that you will be there for them in any shape or form… a call at some odd hour, a warm meal, a friend to help drive them to an appointment, a research assistant when terms and treatments are suggested that sound confusing… there are many ways to give and be present without idealizing illness, without projecting pity, and without marginalizing their experience.
Now I wish to speak to those of you who have suffered a great deal. Cancer is not a prerequisite, and many of us have known suffering, so pull up a chair… I am in the final 6 weeks of a total 5 month Chemotherapy regimen, and six and a half months have passed since my diagnosis. Let me tell you that there WILL be gifts. You will find the most unexpected and surprising gifts if only you just open up your mind and your heart, and most importantly, that you are there on the other side of the door to receive them. This flip side of giving has been a big growing lesson for me. In order to experience these gifts, you have to 1. ASK, and 2. open to RECEIVE.
The “Ask” I speak of is not like sitting on Santa’s lap and running off a list of material things you wish to magically appear under the proverbial tree. To ask is to be seen. I know that sounds confusing, but what I mean is that you must let down your guard of being afraid of judgement for your vulnerability and suffering. Look around you right now. What could make your life a little more simple, more comforting? What could bring you ease or uplift your spirits right now? Company? A bath? Someone to wash your dishes or do a little shopping? Be willing to be seen and ask. Don’t assume you are all alone in this. It can be so hard to reach out of your suffering, but trust me, you must try. We NEED each other. Yes, you could go it alone… but you will deprive others of the experience to give of themselves… to share their Light with you.
For me, to at first Receive was like being asked to dance in the 6th grade, awkward and uncomfortable. It was hard to let down my self judgment and is still something I work to keep in check. Yesterday for example, I was day dreaming about doing my taxes for the year (yes, I’m strange!) and in this daydream I wrote, “Charity Case” as my profession for 2014. Quickly snapping to, I silenced that inner critic and judge and shifted to gratitude instead of feeling sorry for myself. A friend reminded me yesterday of how much it means to her to be able to give. Me being on the receiving end made her feel so good. You forget that when you’re feeling vulnerable and low.
I’d like to share just a few of my unexpected Gifts… While I am SO grateful for the donations that have helped me to pay the bills and endless co-pays, and for the generous offers of various healing sessions, for the food donations, and people helping me get to appointments and bring over warm meals, I am talking about something else entirely. I wish to share with you a few gifts to the soul that will stick with me forever… the unexpected treasures…
My Mom and I, who were so close when I was growing up, have grown closer through this. I think when I went off to college we started drifting apart… maybe she saw me as a strong and capable young woman and thought I didn’t need her as much. She got into dog breeding with her new husband and though we were only 20 minutes away from each other, weeks would go by without us really connecting. Through these difficult months I needed my Mommy and she has really shown up for me.
My biological Dad and I have had a tumultuous and strained relationship. I felt like he didn’t know me and at times that I was unlovable to him. Well… Hi Dad. He has been reading my blog and writing me emails, opening and sharing parts of himself, like his views on spirituality, and I feel closer to knowing him and being known to him.
Other family members too… my Dad who adopted me, my Sisters, my Stepmother, my Aunts, my Stepfather and Step-Grandmother, my In-laws, all rallying around me, praying for me and checking in on me. In wellness, at it’s best, you assume your family loves you and cares for you or at the very least you tolerate each other. In sickness, you KNOW you are loved.
I am grateful too for my Sisterhood of Beautiful, Strong and Soulful friends. I had always cherished our good times of laughing together and creating great memories, but I think the greatest gift was being able to cry and be vulnerable with these women, and being held with such grace and care.
My relationship with my Husband has strengthened too. I had always thought of myself as the organized one, the Do-er, the caretaker. As I have had to take a back seat to a lot of our domestic tasks, I have made room for Joey to step up and show his capability and strength. He has always been a loving husband and my best friend, and now I know what a wonderful caretaker he can be. I have seen a new strength in him that was always there, but perhaps not fully realized and appreciated from my “Do-it-all” perch. Thank you Darling!
The last surprising gift that I will offer today, is that my vulnerability and sharing has reached into the hearts of others. I use to write endlessly in my teens and twenties, then life happened and it dried up. This blog has been an outlet, a release, and a voice for me. I think in some small way I may be helping other people on both sides, in wellness or in sickness. While it Gives to me, it Gives back and that helps me feel useful and gives meaning to this experience.
And the best part… I’m still in it, so I know there will be more gifts to unfold as time goes on!