The biggest lesson cancer taught me
I gazed at myself in the mirror, transfixed. A strange mix of sheer terror and calm knowing. I knew. I just knew it was cancer.
The moment I found the lump is etched into my brain permanently. There’s the saying, “my life flashed before my eyes”, but you never really understand that until you experience it. It’s exactly like I’d imagined it, a spliced movie reel spinning at lighting speed of both memories and imagined future moments.
Would I live see my daughter find her wings and become independent? Would I ever fulfill my hopes and dreams? My goals? Would I live to see next year?
“What I never did is done”.
Right after I found the lump I began playing The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” every morning. Morbidly depressing and probably not healthy, I know. I cried through its entirety, but those lines got me the most, a feeling like I’d been punched in the gut.
“What I never did is done”.
Such finality with that. I saw those things I’d only dreamed of accomplishing as something that was doable, but now too late. Why did I think I could never take a stab at being a successful writer? Why had that seemed so far-fetched? Becoming independent of the 9 to 5 world and traveling, my passion fulfilled. It was hindsight before it could really be hindsight. I’d skipped ahead to my deathbed and lamented all those things I’d never did.
Even with all this doom and gloom, nothing can prepare you for the actual diagnosis. Hearing the words spoken that my biopsy was positive is literally one of the most devastating things I’ve endured. Only twice in my life have my knees failed me- this time and when I received the phone call that my grandmother had passed. I now understood the phrase “you’d better sit down” before bad news. I fell to the floor, but I somehow managed to finish the call with my doctor. After I hung up, I laid face first into the bathroom floor, pressing my face into a towel and screaming. Sobbing and screaming, feeling the most primal pain and fear I think I’ve ever known. Somehow I crawled out to my husband, but all I could do was hold the phone up with the information of a recent call from my doctor and nod my head yes.
I’ll leave it at that. There’s way too many emotions and experiences, too much depth to what I felt in the subsequent months after my diagnosis. Maybe I’ll save them for later blog posts. Maybe not. I’m here to speak about my biggest lesson in those dark, crazy months, not all of the horror that came with it.
It sounds cliche, but I truly learned that “live each day like it’s your last” is a thing. Seeing my life in an imagined hindsight made me truly understand how I would feel when I was on my last breath, the regrets I would have. Cancer taught me to embrace each day, worry less, do more and invest in myself and my dreams. That’s the message I want to spread, and whatever comes along with it will just happen.
Alicia Steele Cirar is an aspiring author, blogger and freelance writer. Stage II invasive ductal carcinoma survivor. Human and dog mom. World traveler. Forever dreamer.
*** note to site: I have a wonderful photo with words I created from my recent trip that sums up how I feel. It goes well with my article. I tried to attach it but I’m not sure it worked; all I can see is my author photo. Please let me know if you’re interested and it’s not here. Thanks
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