Monday, August 15, 2011

What A Ride!

Hello to my adorable Lab Lady, who pampered, massaged, heated and coaxed my arm into giving blood today, with one stick!  I love you Lady, and how hard you work to make things easier for me!  I told her about Relay, and then realized, I had not come back and talked to you about it!

So I am backtracking a bit here, to tell you about the incredible Vallejo Relay for Life, that took place on Saturday, August 6th.  I don't think I slept for two nights after, so pumped up with love and connection and hopefulness!  I'm telling you, if you are a cancer survivor, you really must participate in your local Relay for Life event.  It is a life changer!  and even if you aren't a Survivor, it is such a great great event for the whole family, for such a worthy cause!

For some of you who may not know how The Relay works, it's basically a fund raiser for the American Cancer Society, where teams of volunteers walk a high school track for 24 hours, and raise money, participate in all kinds of fun things at the Relay, and my favorite part of the whole thing is the Luminary Ceremony.  It's when the track is lit with thousands of luminaries in honor of those battling cancer or Survivors, and in memory of those we lost to cancer.

The Relay traditionally starts at 9 am on a Saturday morning, with the opening introduction, and then the first lap around the track is the Survivors Lap.  This is so meaningful, and very inspiring to walk with other cancer Survivors, and I love seeing the balloons with really huge numbers written on them, signifying years of Survivorship!  I wanna be one of those some day!  The Vallejo Relay is incredible, so many participants and so many dollars raised!  It is a fantastic community event.

After walking the Survivors Lap that morning, I went over to the banner they make every year for the Survivors, where your hand is painted, and then you make a hand print on the banner and sign your name.  Just as I was about to do my hand print, a woman came up behind me with her Husband and asked "Are you Debbie?"

I turned around and said "Yes I am" and then she proceeded to introduce herself to me, (Hello Joan), and explained she was also a Survivor and had attended the National Cancer Survivors Day event in Fairfield, and had LOVED my speech.  She shared with me some of the things we have in common, which was very cute, then said she had something for me.

Out of her pocket she pulled a small handwritten note; it was a quote she said reminded her of me and she thought I might enjoy it, and hoped she'd see me at Relay to give it to me.  I was so touched by this, and here is the quote, provided by my new friend Joan:

Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting -

"What a Ride!!"

Thank you Joan, so very nice to meet you and your Hubby (and see you both again that night at the Luminary Ceremony).  This meant so much to me, and yes, I love the quote, and mostly your thoughtfulness.  Thank you.

I was so nervous about the Luminary Ceremony, excited and nervous!  I decided to send the Good Witch an email before seeing her.  The subject line on it said "Can I take an Ativan :) " and I told her I was so anxious but thrilled we were appearing together!  She wrote back saying after watching the video of my Survivors Day speech, she sure hoped she was going first, and not following me!  I got a kick out of that.

Later that night when I was walking around at Relay prior to the ceremony, she spotted me, and we laughed again and hugged.  I sure love that Lady.  She gave a great speech and I was so happy and proud to be up there with her!  Kismet!

I just can't say enough about all the love shown to me after the Luminary Ceremony.  As I walked the track that night, I couldn't get but a few steps when someone new would stop me, to hug me, to talk to me, to tell me their story, to thank me, to tell me how much my words resonated with them.

I was very touched by the several different men who stopped me to tell me my speech had brought them to tears, and touched them deeply, as if they were confessing!  It was so cute.  I felt really good that I opened a door that they could walk through, showing their feelings that night, grieving their losses, in a place that is supportive and comforting and non judgmental.

As I walked the track I came up behind a family walking, and that's when I met Christine.  I could see from her bald head that she was in treatment and asked her that, calling out to her from behind.  "Hey Lady, you still in chemo?"

When she turned around, and saw my face, and realized I was that night's speaker, she almost squealed in delight and said "It's you, it's you, I LOVE YOU."  We held hands and jumped around in excitement and at one point her Hubby gave me a huge hug and thank you too.  Christine, if you are reading, I know we will see each other again, I felt such an instant connection with you, it was surreal, and I know you felt it too!  I know we will meet again, and I hope it's soon.

I always love meeting another Sister, it's one of the reasons I feel so strongly about attending support groups, chatting on the breast cancer message boards, and emailing with my Sisters.  It really helps, I can't stress this enough.  If you are a newbie, please please join a support group and/or go to a breast cancer message Board.  My absolute favorite Board is the Network of Strength (NOS) Y-Me Board.  Click here Sister (at the bottom of the site page is the Message Board).

It was such a great night at the Relay, and the love and affirmation that came my way was unbelievable.  There is something more though that happened to me that night, as I walked the track alone for awhile.  I started thinking about my hopefulness.  I realized that even with all my faith and optimism, I have still been weighed down by this lurking feeling about a recurrence or sometimes even secretly feeling resigned to one, and/or my early demise as a breast cancer statistic.  This is what the little voice sounds like:

You better prepare yourself Debbie.  This may not go well.  You have to be practical here, you were a Stage Three, you know.  That's not good.  Don't go getting your hopes up, cause if or when you are wrong, you'll just feel stupid.  Go on being hopeful and positive in front of everyone else, no sense in worrying them or bringing them down, but let's get real here, you could die from this shit, and you probably will.

As I walked the track, I realized I had been carrying this secret inner dialogue with me, and I decided, then and there, enough was enough.  Why can't I be hopeful?  Why can't I believe I will be a long term Survivor?  Could I really allow myself to believe the worst is already over, and that the cancer will never come back?  Why can't I believe that everything is going to be ok?  Why not?

With every step I walked that night, past thousands of luminaries and all the ones I made, I felt something happening to me, shedding that negative self talk, and allowing myself to want and hope for the best, regardless of the statistics, regardless of practical thinking.

What do I have to lose by being hopeful?

I don't know what will happen with me, I don't know why I've been thinkin I'm a fortune teller or a soothsayer, or secretly expecting the worst.  I don't know why I've been thinking that if I am hopeful then have a recurrence, somebody will come up to me and say "See, I told you Debbie, I told you, you never ever should have been so hopeful."

That's just stupid, isn't it?

I am going with optimism.
I am going with the belief that I am cancer free,
and will REMAIN cancer free,
but I will take that one step further
and add daily shots of

With all that I have been through, with all that I endured, as I look back over my shoulder now, I see how my cancer diagnosis and treatment was like tilling the soil, getting it ready to plant AMAZING things, it was the grit that polished the pearl, and I am the pearl.

I have decided that hopefulness is not about a hoped for outcome.  It is the certainty that whatever happens is exactly what needs to happen, regardless of the outcome, in order to move me along this path, and bring me closer to these -


Now when I talk to myself, and give myself a talking to, I remind myself that these are the givens - that my life will not go as I expected, and often I may not get what I asked for or wanted or thought I needed.
I have no control over what happens, and whatever comes my way.
I do know that whatever happens,
Angels and tools will arrive,
right on time.
I know this for sure.

Debbie, can you find a way to love the life that is sent to you, believing that every single piece is all part of some greater plan?

This is my practice now.

What a ride!  What a ride!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1 comment:

Pink Kitchen said...

Wow, this totally resonated with me. I go through that dialogue as well. It's difficult not to, isn't it?! But you're right, let's enjoy the ride!

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