The past 14 1/2 months have not been easy for me or anyone who has made the choice to stick by me this last year.
When I look at the period of time from April 2012 until today, I can honestly say that there were moments that I thought I could not handle anything more thrown at me by life. Cancer certainly dealt many blows and there were times where I felt sheer terror, despair, and I was fearful like no other time in my life because of the health issues, concerns and predictions.
And there have also been some disappointments that I never expected, not only from the medical community, but from those whom I have thought were my closest of allies.
One of the hardest pills of life for me to have swallowed is when people have “walked away” from me. Visits and calls stopped and my attempts at contact or connection have not been returned. (I know from talking with others this is not uncommon to those who are facing chronic illnesses.)
This is when I have felt most vulnerable, lost, and hurt. It is harder yet when there has been an unwillingness to share with me their reasons for doing so, but worse yet, when I have been blatantly lied to. It is in these moments that I want to lash out, but instead, I retreat.
I think I am an open and forgiving person and understand that we humans are complicated creatures. Still it does not make the pain of distrust, hurt, and disappointment disappear. Nor does it remove the feelings of emptiness felt once the realization that friendships and relationships with others are over or they never were what I believed they were in the first place.
Yet, with all the fear and disappointment in this past year, there has been great joy, laughter, and love as I have never experienced before, often from total strangers.
I have learned to accept gifts of kindness and love from people who have offered me their hearts with no pretense. These are souls who have simply shown up in my life to be genuine and caring.
Admittedly, I have not always known how to accept their kind offerings, as I struggle with old beliefs that nothing comes without obligation of reciprocity in kind. I have reminded myself over and over again of the words that a friend of mine who lost her battle with breast cancer shared with me many years ago: “When you do not accept graciously, you rob others of the joy of giving.”
I am so grateful to many people and I wish that I could I could list everyone , but there are a few that stand out to me tonight as I look back over the year:
- Sue F.–After 15 years, we reconciled a friendship that was “lost.” This last year has reminded me that when people are connected as we always were in the past, there is hope. The laughter and adventures we share make my heart sing. The gifts of forgiveness of others and of self are what I appreciate most from her.
- Minerva P.–This beautiful lady was one of my first caretakers on the hospital ward and we made an instant connection. She is brilliant, has a heart of gold and has given me the gift of friendship even seeing (and taking care of ) me at my worst in the hospital. She took care of needs that others would shy away from. She is truly “mi hermana Cubana.”
- Crystal G.–There are people in our past who weave their way in-and-out and it is as if there was no time lapse. Crystal and I knew one another in Guam and it had been 20 years since we had seen one another. Her gift was that she surprised me by flying up for my birthday dinner last August. We laughed and joked as if it had only been a week or two. She caught a flight back out that evening. Knowing that we can always come back together again as if time stands still is priceless.
- Tami H.–We met at a Komen function last September on a cruise ship (though docked). We were both solo and experienced many laughs in those few short hours together. We share a similar sense of humor, understand that life deals some crappy blows, and that a shared quirky sense of humor is what is necessary to see us through the toughest of times. I will always be her “Mona” and she my “Lisa.” (You had to have been there to understand.)
- Mary G.–What can I say about this “Angel?” That is how I see Mary. She offered her heart and the gift of “calmness” out of chaos. We were brought together through an online chat group, and had a chance meeting when I offered to visit a friend of hers who has cancer. Mary opened her heart and home to me. She tended to me by: Making sure that I was fed with healthy food; feeding my soul with the gift of music when we went out to hear her sweetheart (Tom is a jazz pianist) play and a moment to sing in a venue that was like “coming home”; offering a calm, comfortable place to rest (I slept better there than I had in months); and gifting me with one of the most relaxing massages. (She is a massage therapist, yoga instructor, stress management coach, and much more out of the Portland area.) I must also share that she shared Ms. Lola with me, who gave me much-needed doggy-snuggles.
- Rick D.–Despite our battles, differences and the evolution the relationship has taken over 30 years, we have maintained a friendship throughout it all. That is a gift in and of itself, as so many others in our situation are incapable or unwilling to do so. When I have needed and asked for help, he is there. There are few in this world who are like him.
There are so many more whom I could mention. None is more important than another. Each has been instrumental to my getting through this past year and a quarter of uncertainty. I simply cannot thank each person for all you have done for me or explain what you have meant to me.
Last year this time, I had been out of the hospital for one day. Now, it is the end of this season. We have all made it through the year; we have all made it through the first anniversaries of many tough moments.
We can take nothing and no one for granted. Those things we think might be important today hold little value when we are faced with losing time with the people we cherish the most. The decisions we make in relationship to those people are the decisions to which we must learn to reconcile ourselves.
Each day this year has reminded me of just how important living each day to the fullest truly is and what it means to do so. It has also given me the resolve to let those who are important to me know it.
Yes, this first year of fear and uncertainly is over…one season is over and another begins.
After all, that is LIFE.
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Coral Levang is a “Personal Change Agent & Life Coach” who offers:
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