October 2000 in a nutshell . . . within a matter of two weeks I found out that I didn’t have stomach problems, rather, I had some kind of malignancy, in fact a rare non-invasive form ovarian cancer, I was most likely going to have some kind of major surgery or two or more maybe, then some chemotherapy, I am an identical (not fraternal as we had been told our whole lives) twin, I am going to be marooned in Miami for an indefinite period of time, and, most importantly, that I am the luckiest girl in the world.
Didja ever feel like you were living someone else’s life? Like maybe we are all indeed part of this big, multi-dimensional chess game in the sky that’s going along at a steady pace, but then God sneezes and in that brief moment, a mischievous angel who wanted to be sent back down to have another go but was held back because his “papers” were not in order decides to turn the board around or shift a few pieces, and then when God resumes playing the eternal world’s-a-stage heavenly body pastime, suddenly you’re living out the life that was meant for someone else? The turn of events my life took last year felt like I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when I suddenly stepped through some kind of intergalactic wormhole and was thrust into what seemed to be a surreal parallel universe. The people and places were the same, but I was abruptly moving forward into a life experience that I had never imagined, but sometimes in the very back of my mind feared, was supposed to be mine.
When I say that I sometimes feared this experience, I mean that, like most of us who hear about, read about, meet someone dealing with the “Big C”, Cancer, my immediate thought to whatever force may or may not be out there making things happen or not happen in our lives would be something along the lines of, “Please not me — ever”. Whenever I’d see a movie or TV program or read an article about cancer-related topics, a cloud of fear would come over me and I would just hope and wish that I never have to go through something like that. I’d also wonder, what if I did? How would I handle it? Could I handle it? I’d shake my head vigorously until those fearful thoughts lost their grip on my mind and tell myself that it’s not in my destiny, it’s not gonna happen to me. But if it did, I’d be strong and I’d survive. I believed that. Unlike many of the subjects of the movies and articles I saw when I was younger where the predominant result was a sad, slow, and tragic end of life, I knew that I would survive. Then it did really happen to me and I did survive. I am alive, more so than I have ever been.
The saying that “pain is the great motivator” was never more salient to me than now. Aside from the physical catalyst for this journey, this past year has been the most positive, life-affirming journey of self-discovery I have ever experienced. Just to clarify: given a choice of paths to self-discovery, I would have rather been plopped down in the middle of a far-off-just-outside-of-nowhere place with no food, no map, no supplies, no phone, just the clothes on my back, a non-functional compass, and a roget’s thesaurus (?) and then have to make my way home in order to find myself, versus battling a life-threatening illness. But we don’t always have a choice in these matters now, do we? I know it sounds corny perhaps or maybe even crazy, but I am actually healthier now in mind, body, and spirit then I have ever been. I never understood that sentiment when I heard other people who have triumphed over tragically difficult challenges say the same thing. Now I do, and I am thankful that I was able to accept this experience as an important and positive part of my life journey.
But it wasn’t all a lovely, soft, and pretty bed of roses . . . and every rose has its many prickly thorns!