Week 49: Acceptance.

December 6, 2010 at 7:16 (Uncategorized) (, , , )


I read today that doctors stopped treatment for Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer, giving her just weeks to live. I read her Facebook response to this and it was so steady, so reassuring. And I remembered when I was this way. During my own cancer treatments, when we didn’t know if I would live or die, or if it was on its way out or on its way to takeover, I did at some point rise above it all and really accept death. I just accepted that this is what was coming. Not sadly, depressedly or angrily. Not as resignation. Just acceptance. It was much harder for my family to deal with than for me.

Once my doctors got a handle on things and the cancer stopped coming, I found it very hard to re-enter society and come back from that sense of freedom with a “normal” perspective. I saw my life as simply having run its course, and couldn’t function knowing there was more coming. I couldn’t form long-term goals because for years I had accepted that there was no long-term. I saw myself as an old woman because I had programmed myself to understand that there was no 35 or 40 or retirement or grandchildren. There was no looking forward to something or looking ahead. There was really only being for awhile.

But reading Mrs. Edwards’ calm, accepting statement today reminded me of all the things I want to accomplish in a lifetime because length of time is available to me now. It’s not that I’m more grateful because of having overcome cancer; I’m just aware that if I can accomplish so much in such a short period of time, I can feel free to imagine ineffable things for myself over the larger course of decades. There’s a real chance that I can lasso my biggest dreams, dream up bigger dreams and not accept finality or impossibility from anything again. And why not? For me, the impossible has become possible over and over. The unexpected became the norm. And dreams are going to become reality.

A sampling of the things I long for:
I want to get my doctorate
I want to do published research
I want to write a novel
I want to head an organization
I want to be influential in a not-for-profit
I want to start a small local business
I want to speak to people and motivate them
I want to enforce equality of genders
I want to teach
I want to bring people together

It’s because of cancer I learned to rely on my gut because it’s always right. And my gut tells me to go for these things I’ve been driven by for 32 years — to not bury them deep inside and fool myself into thinking I’ll be fulfilled whether I live one more year or 60 without them. This statement from Mrs. Edwards reminded me that acceptance of myself doesn’t only have to happen at death. It has to happen now and continue to happen. I feel silly saying something as trite as “I’ve been given a second chance”, but not as silly as I would if I didn’t say it at all.

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