About 1 1/2 years ago, I went in for my annual physical and mammogram. I was worried about blood sugar, since diabetes is in my family. When my test results came in, I was thrilled to see that my blood sugar was just fine.
Whew! Then, the phone rang. My mammogram had shown something very tiny, but suspicious. Would I please return for a second one? I was stunned. Talking to friends, researching online, I found that about half of women over 50 get a call back. Of those, very few actually have anything wrong.
I went back in, knowing that this was going to be fine. Again, I got a call. When I went in, the radiologist showed me the teeny specks he was wondering about. He said they were so small, that I could wait six months, or I could go in for a biopsy.
Hell no, I was not going to wait six months! I went in, and they assured me that very few of these things are cancerous. However, I was not fortunate. The call came a few days later. I had breast cancer.
I could blog for hours about the fear and horror I felt when I got the news, but that is not what I am writing about today. I will tell you, though, that the strongest reaction I had was that my feelings were hurt. Deeply hurt. I don't quite know how to explain that, but there it is.
I was lucky in that it was Stage 0. I had a lumpectomy and 6 weeks of radiation. No chemo. My doctor says I should plan on eventually dying of something other than breast cancer. It was so small, so new, that it practically did not qualify as cancer.
But, the fear, the surgery, the recovery and then the radiation (with burns that blistered and wept) were not easy. I was unbelievably tired for months. I still don't have the energy I had before. And you know what else? At times, my feelings are still hurt. I know I am lucky. I know people have worse. But, I can't help my feelings. I feel betrayed, and somehow physically abused, at times. Those feelings are now infrequent.
In Ocotber I have 2 more follow up tests. Just when you forget you had cancer, it seems something is scheduled to remind to that you did. I am glad they have these tests, but still, it is scary.
I had read many times that various people said cancer had brought good things to them. How can they say that, I wondered. Surely they are just trying to put on a postive face. Once cancer happened to me, I understood.
Cancer brought me lots of good things. For one thing, that old saying about not taking life for granted? I don't. Not anymore. I try to stop-every day- and just look at things. Really see those birds at the feeders, their feathers, their antics...really see the face of the person talking to me, loving me.
Secondly, I learned that true love really does endure all things. The care and patience my husband gave to me was tremendous. I always knew he loved me deeply. This just brought it home even clearer. We spent a whole summer pretty much sitting on the deck when not working, because I was too tired for anything else. He never complained of boredom. Not once.
Friends, bosses, family...they were amazing. Having cancer also made me realize even more that any day I could lose one of them. I am more patient with people now, try to be more understanding. We are so easily destroyed by things outside of our control, like cancer. I try not to be a destructive force myself, because that IS something I can control. Am I perfect? No. I won't ever come close. But, I do believe I am a kinder, more forgiving person after having had cancer.
Lastly, it brought home the fact that those things I always thought Iwould do might not get done. Not unless I do them today. Oh my God! All of those paintings I always thought I would paint, when I became a better painter! All of those novels in my head that I was afraid to write, because...well...who did I think I was! Those might never get done, if I waited until I was more talented, more educated, more deserving.
And so, I painted. I sat down and began to write a novel. And I kept going. Pretty soon, some of those paintings were done. And, unbelievalby, pretty soon I had published my first novel! It was an e-book for Kindle and NOOK. And then, I took the plunge and formatted it for paperback. A few weeks ago, I held the book in my hand. A real book. With Caddy Rowland on it in big letters! Just think. In 200 years, someone might buy the e-book or the paperback, read it, and think "Who in the hell was Caddy Rowland?"
I am on fire now. I don't paint much, because I am determined to became an author that sells a decent amount of books. I have written book two and it is in the editing stage. I have started book three in the series. I have plans for at least one more, maybe two for the series before moving on to another book. I have so many in my head to write! The paintbrushes that are gathering dust don't have to worry, though. I won't forget about them. Those paintings will not be silenced. As I get better at the "indie author" thing, more time will get spent on painting, too.
Cancer was the impetus to me creating the things I always wanted to create. I had painted, but not really painted what was in me. I had written, but never completed anything. All of a sudden, I understood that if I wanted to do it, I had to do it now.
Please make sure you do the things that are bouncing around inside of you. Now. Now is all you are guaranteed.
Cancer made me understand that I don't paint or write because I am good enough, or because I want to. I paint and write because I have to. It is why I am here, and I don't know how long this visit will last.