I GET to go to chemotherapy. I GET to have poison shot into my vein that will hopefully kill the cancer in my breast.
It all started when my oncologist said, “You’re going to go through a year of chemo and surgery, but you’ll be fine.” I went home, sat on my couch, and E-X-H-A-L-E-D… then it slowly hit me and I started chanting and eventually dancing,
I get to live.
I get to live.
I GET to live.
I GET TO LIVE!
~ I GET TO LIVE ~
Note, I didn’t repeat a negative mantra that might have sounded something like, “I have cancer. Damn, I have cancer.”
I GET TO LIVE! I GET to BREATH. I GET to work. I GET to DANCE. I GET to hug my husband, and my athletes, and my family, and my friends and my grandchildren! Do I like to get up early for work? No! Do I look forward to chemotherapy sessions… uh … no. But I GET TO DO ALL OF THIS because I GET TO LIVE!
The one revelation, “I GET TO…” changed my outlook on everything I think about and do every single day.
I purposefully chose to refer to my chemo sessions as my “Chemo Spa.” A Spa is where you go to get healthier. Sometimes it’s painful—for any of you who have had a deep tissue massage—not the most pleasant experience. Once you reframe how you think about something it takes on a different meaning and produces different emotions. I could have thought, “I have to go to the hospital to get chemotherapy.” Or I could think, “I GET to go to my Chemo Spa.” Either way, I was still going to the same place, for the same amount of time, and to experience the same insertion of the needle. I just didn’t dread it once I framed it with a positive spin, my Chemo Spa.
One Thursday I was getting ready to leave our team training to go in for my Chemo Spa therapy and one of my seniors, Ellette Craddock, asked if we could meet later in my office. I told her I couldn’t because I was going to my Chemo Spa. I said to her, “My Chemo Spa is sure screwing up my day.” To which she replied, “Yes, but Miss Val, it’s giving you a lot more days.” … ahh… perspective.
From the moment I heard that I had a malignant tumor in my breast I KNEW I couldn’t let anything penetrate my armor of positivity. I didn’t know what type of a battle I’d be facing, but I knew it needed to be fought with relentless faith that everything would eventually be fine. That armor encapsulated every thought of every waking moment.
Regardless of how I was feeling, whenever I was asked, “How are you doing?” I’d reply, “Great! Life is Amazing!” I remember when Ariana Berlin, one of our alumna, asked me, “Miss Val, how can you say you’re great when you have cancer in your breast?” I replied, “I have a malignant tumor in my breast getting hit with some very powerful stuff. The rest of me feels great, I have energy and I’m having a fantastic time living life. Why would I let a tumor in my boob ruin any part of my day?” I also asked everyone I saw frequently to please not treat me like I’m sick. I’m not sick. Sick is when you feel like crap and have the flu. I feel GREAT, therefore I’m not sick.
Life is hard. Getting through each day, even when I feel great, is often hard. But we have options:
(1) Complain about every little thing you HAVE to do. “Ugh, I don’t want to get out of bed.” “I can’t believe the traffic.” “Another boring day at work.” And so on…
(2) Be Aloof, Indifferent, Bored. Coast through each day with the goal of just getting through it… that is a very empty and unattractive thought, almost worse than the previous option.
(3) Be thankful and appreciative for ALL things. EVERY. LITTLE. THING! Life isn’t just about the good stuff that happens to us. Life is EVERYTHING: the Good, Bad and Ugly. The Fun Stuff, the Boring stuff, the frustrations, the jubilations… It’s all LIFE. The highs, lows and everything in between are what make life challenging, rewarding and downright fun.
Photo credits: Edward Duarte (top); Austin Schmid