Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops… at all. ~Emily Dickinson
October has been designated as Breast Cancer Month. Everywhere I have looked over the last 17 years it seems as though folks have been in denial and use terms like…I AM CURED, SURVIVOR, IT CAN’T COME BACK…blah blah blah ad nauseum. I realize that I cannot be defined as being a Breast Cancer Survivor ~ I am NOT my breast cancer diagnosis, I am so much more. Macmillan dictionary defines a Survivor as: Someone or something that still exists after an event that could have killed or destroyed them; someone or something that still exists after every other member of a group has died or been destroyed; someone who manages to continue a successful life despite very bad experiences. Well it doesn’t capture my breast cancer journey nor even touch the quality of life I had with my mother. It makes the mistaken assumption that I am: merely existing; or that I still exist after every loved one and other members had died; or have manage to continue a successful life. That would be a big fat NOT! God brings challenges into our lives to make us stronger and remember those things on the way to living a life of grace. Here is an excerpt to my memoir, Being Jazz where I the lessons from jazz mindfulness improv truly taught me how to turn adversity into love.
Contrary to popular belief, everyone has the ability to change their circumstance, point of view and/or state of mind. Now you say She must be tripping…. Well, I was skeptical about the whole change your mind and life thing, too. Breast cancer was the second adversity that changed that for me. It made me question what I thought; my beliefs and why I was so unhappy. Going through chemotherapy I discovered that I wanted to desperately live with music and not die with the noise of surgeries, chemotherapy, loss of my hair and everything I believed made me happy. That being said, this was by no means something that could change overnight. It meant to go back to my fondest memories. I had to get rid of all of my attachments and material things because quite honestly, they didn’t mean much. Dad died six years earlier and mom’s cancer returned after so many years. It was just us. My friends found it hard to talk to me. They simply didn’t know what to do or say. At the time, I was angry and frustrated about everything. I wanted to give up. It began in November of 2000. I was having reconstructive surgery. Here’s an excerpt from Being Jazz that became my major Aha! Moment…
“It was Thursday, November 30th, 2000, I was 46 years old. A week after Thanksgiving, this was going to be my big Reconstructive Surgery Day. It was my attempt to make up for all of the losses and the ravages that resulted from the traumatic complications from my bilateral mastectomy. Life, as I knew it six months before today, would be restored. I wanted to believe that life was the space between the notes and would free me from the exiled island where I had come to live. Today, I realize that every breath I take is the space between the notes in a melody that is fueled by God’s love and grace. I learned that surrendering, accepting and embracing everything that has happened in my “so called perfect life” for example, … in 1990 being — completely paralyzed from Guillain-Barré Syndrome; my father’s death in 1994; my mom’s return of cancer that was terminal in 1997; my breast cancer diagnosis on April 14, 2000 (ironically on my father’s birthday); my bilateral mastectomy in June 2000 with all of its complications followed by my chemotherapy with all of its’ dreadful side effects in July,2000; my reconstructive surgery November of 2000 and finally the loss of my career as a successful paralegal after 20 years. Yes, today is going to be my day; I get the chance to make things right with my soul and universe within. I hoped that it was not just an illusion.?
The downside is that it is easy to get lost in the maze of traditional medicine and living a life that is not based on quality. There is a sense of apathy and a sinking feeling that as long as you ain’t in the acute phase then there is nothing to worry about. Somehow that creeps the hell out of me. Mom survived six years when the Oncologist predicted she would only live a year and a half to two years. We fought the good fight and when I was at the threshold of the “Last Exit” and my reconstructive surgery failed and on the way into back into the O.R. my mother told them to ignore my DNR and when I asked her why she said…”It is not your time yet! I surrendered and she even though which resulted in having ten subsequent painful ambulatory surgeries because the graft failed. Jazz served as my way of escape because just before I went the anesthetic my father’s CD was playing in the OR. It brought back the happiest times of my life. Jazz has its own code for living. Words are the reflection of what is going on inside you and I have discovered from Carlos Castaneda that we must be impeccable in our word choices. So for me Survivor is OUT and Living with Breast Cancer [livingwithbreastcancer.org] is IN and a more appropriate term. What do you think? Are you existing as a survivor or are you learning to dance on life’s shores of living the life that is waiting for you? I hope you dance…Peace & Love Out! JBC 😎 & ❤
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