My friend Andrea shared a story on her blog last week titled, “One day you’re a dog, the next day your are in space.” It is about how sometimes your life pivots on a dime and you find yourself headed in a direction that that is unexpected and uncharted. Her story was about deciding to leave her marriage, and not being sure of that step until the second the words came out of her mouth.
My story is about a phone call I got at the end of April, when the doctor on the other end of the line said, “I’m sorry. The test results show that the biopsy is consistent with cancer.”
Boom. Outer space.
If you’ve ever been diagnosed with cancer or been close to someone who has, you’ll know that the next few weeks of my life quickly filled up with doctor’s appointments, tests, research, planning, and many many tears and bouts of anxiety. In many ways those weeks were the very hardest part of this journey so far. So much was unknown, so much was scary. I had to face my own mortality and decide how I was going to stand in that place and also move forward. And also how I was going to parent through the midst of this, and how I was going to continue to nurture my relationship with my man while renegotiating everything in our life as I relinquished so many of my day to day responsibilities and he became the main caretaker of me, our daughter, our pets, our home.
Everything I’ve learned while writing this blog came to bear, and I’m so grateful that I’ve been on this self care journey for so long. I have practice setting boundaries (one of which was walking away from this space for a while). I have practice asking for help and accepting it. I have practice at putting my needs first when I need to, and stepping back and taking a break from the hard stuff when I need perspective. I have learned how to filter other people’s advice and only take away what fits for me. I have learned how to go slow, listen to my heart, make decisions that are right for me in both the short term and the long view. I have learned these things because I’ve been practicing them in small ways every day for a few years. So when I needed them in a big way all of a sudden, there they were at my fingertips.
Even after I got through those first dizzying weeks and actually moved into my treatment plan, I kept using all that self-care knowledge. I used it when that first chemo cycle was so much harder than I expected. I used it when most of my hair fell out at the end of June. I used it when my daughter had eye surgery in July and I had to pull out all of my resources to be there for her when I had so little energy even for myself. And then I used it to recover again when I found myself so depleted. I use it over and over whenever my fears rise, my ability to cope falters, my guilt and frustration for being in this hard place sneak in the cracks and blindside me, over and over again.
I would not wish a cancer diagnosis on anyone. Nor would I wish the loss of a pregnancy, a hard birth, a challenging child, or heartache of any kind. But I see now how valuable these self care practices are. The day to day habits I write about here will help you cope, whether your challenge is the third spilled cup of milk before lunch or a string of words that send you to outer space for months.
Just keep practicing.