A few moths ago I found out that one of the sweet cancer fighters I sent lipstick to passed away . If you're not familiar, my lipstick company does a buy one/give one. Meaning, if you buy a lipstick, I donate one to a cancer fighter/survivor that you know, and if you don't know anyone, I give partial proceeds to cancer organizations I've chosen. I got the information about this beautiful woman from the person who had it sent to her. She was a young wife and mom of two little boys with a constant smile on her face. I was so happy to send her lipstick in hopes to bring a little joy to her fight. Days later I got a little thank you from her via private message on Instagram. She was super excited and grateful, and was hoping to try more colors. Hearing the news of her passing made me so sad and reminded me again how fleeting life can be, and that cancer is a bitch.
I also heard from a high school friend who had just learned of her diagnosis and felt they had no one to talk to who knew how it felt, so she reached out to me. Here's what I said:
My advice to you right now is to first, breathe. I have learned that there are lots of things we cannot control. I knew what my job was; seek the best medical advice, stay calm, eat well, try to exercise, go to my medical appointments, etc., the rest I had to let go and trust God, NO MATTER WHAT THE OUTCOME. We always have our own plan for our lives and it stinks when it's derailed, but you have to let that go. Second, share your story because someone needs to hear it, even if it's just you. The more you speak it, the more power your story gives you. I do not hesitate to share my story because it allows people to help you, or at the very least, to understand you better. Next, seek counseling. I started seeing a counselor after the 3rd time I had cancer and it was eye opening and super helpful. Last, cry your eyes out but when you're done, prepare your mind to fight; even if that cycle happens every 5 minutes. It may sound cliche', but try to find at least one thing to be grateful for at the end of the day. Hope looks different to me now that I'm stage 4. Lots of people gauge hope in some future, but I'm too familiar with the concept of time and all we really have is the present. Hope to me looks like looking into the past and seeing how far I've come, thinking about my days and being grateful, finding bits of magic like a flower blooming or a friend calling. As much as life is complicated, it's also really simple.
All of the things I said can be applied to our current Covid situation. The uncertainty and anxiety that everyone feels is how cancer patients feel all the time...welcome to our world. Author, professor, and Stage 4 cancer fighter Kate Bowler calls life a chronic condition and says we are always looking to be better, look better, feel better. She says that it's ok that life isn't always better, we can find beauty and meaning and truth around us, but there's no cure to being human. If uncertainty is not the ultimate enemy, then we get to live in the space between with more courage.
That's where I have to live, the space between. My cancer has been stable almost four years but it has not disappeared. I have been filled with uncertainty about my future but I don't fear it and I no longer view uncertainty as my enemy. It just is.
What is Courage? Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow”. ~ Anonymous