“Cross my heart and hope to die
Taking this one step at a time
Got your back if you got mine
One foot in front of the other
One foot in front of the other” – Walk the Moon
A woman I went to grade school with reached out to me today to tell me that she’s waiting on results for a cervical cancer diagnosis. Her story is sadly very similar to my own and to many I’ve heard. The severity of her HPV was downplayed by her doctors; she was misdiagnosed, given the run around by her gynecologist, and now here she is waiting for the results of a biopsy. Is it cancer? If it is, how bad is it? What do I do next? She has to wait for the next 7-10 days before she’ll have any answers.
(Side note: remind to write a post about how fucked up it is that our doctors don’t listen to us!)
Those of us familiar with this waiting routine, call it scanxiety and it’s awful! But for those who are unfamiliar it must be even worse.
To quote the great Carrie Bradshaw, “I couldn’t help but wonder” how do we keep moving forward with the weight of waiting on our backs? (That was such a good Carrie Bradshaw-esque pun! High-fiving a million angels!)
(Side note 2: Remind to write a post about how 30 Rock is the best show ever).
Talking to this woman I couldn’t imagine having to get up and go to work for the next 10 days like nothing is happening, but then I got to thinking about how that is exactly what I’ve been doing, what many of my fellow cervivors and survivors do every day.
I’ll be waiting for the next 2 – 3 weeks to find out if I’m eligible for a clinical trial that may at once save but also completely upend my life. But I go to work every day (well almost, who are we kidding) and focus on the day to day tasks at hand: work, laundry, the dog, dinner, you know, all the usual stuff.
How many of us have said things like “if a doctor told me I had a terminal illness I’d travel the world, quit my job, buy that thing I’ve always wanted, do that thing I’ve always wanted to do.” [insert your fuck it all dream here].I certainly did.
If you had told me that the real answer to that question was “I’d go on every day as I had been, only now I’d appreciate what I have so much more” I’d have told you were crazy… and annoying. Like those people who say they’d still work if they won the lottery (and, like, major eye roll to those people).
That is exactly what the answer was, though.
Now I’ve NEVER considered myself content. I’ve always been the type of person who constantly feels they need the next thing to be happy. I constantly told myself once something else happens, I’ll be happy. “Once I have a new job, once I lose 10 pounds, once I move to this place or that place, once the weather improves or gets worse ( I actually crave rainy days).”
And the thing is, I had (AND HAVE) a nice life. I just couldn’t appreciate it. I had cultivated the life I’d dreamed of having as a little girl: I’d gone to school, got a master’s degree, moved to the big city, had a home of my own that I could decorate, a great group of friends, did things that my nine year old self considered so cosmopolitan. And although young Bee was far too concerned with being fabulous and successful to care about such frivolity, the universe even gave me an amazing husband to boot.
I tell you all of this because it took being diagnosed with cancer to really see it. That the answer to “If I was diagnosed with a terminal illness I would…” is “do everything I’m doing now just with more appreciation and more purpose.” I also always wanted to blog so check and check! And I STILL want to travel everywhere and see everything so I’m open to free trip invites!
Whenever I think about this, I’m reminded of a backpacking trip I completed with my husband and brother-in-law right before my diagnosis. We had to climb straight up and over a mountain for three straight hours with literal weight on our backs, 30 pounds in fact. After a while, each step began to feel so tiny and was so excruciating that I had no idea how I could keep going. But to keep going was my only option I couldn’t go down and back because I’d be on my own and I couldn’t just sit there because nobody was coming to help me. So I pressed on and I tried to focus on the beauty around me as I did. The birds, the sky, that I even had legs I could use to propel myself up this mountain. There couldn’t be a more perfect metaphor for dealing with cancer, in my opinion.
I’m always in awe of the human spirit, how people can persevere in even the direst circumstances. One of the saying’s I’ve always live by is that “there is always someone who has done more than you with less than you.”
So I’m writing this blog post today not because I want to say “appreciate what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t, happiness is the journey, blah blah cliché, etc…
I’m writing because I want to celebrate how we all persevere as women every day, no matter what our struggle, and how strong we are for doing that.
If you can’t totally appreciate where you are and what you have, that’s cool. I get it.
But let’s appreciate that, despite all of that, we will continue to get up and carry on for the next 7-10 days or for however long it takes.