#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles: Gratitude & Springtime’s Faithfulness

Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.”

~ Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

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There’s something about spring that makes my heart leap. After months of being cooped up inside, cold and cranky, longing for sunlight, we emerge from our cocoons ready to greet the sunlight and the stunning new life that it brings. No matter what gloom the winter may have sent our way in the form of sickness or any other challenge, the spring season is always faithful to give new life, vibrant colors and endless beauty to lift our spirits. I’ve been reminded of this for the past week each morning as I open the curtains in my living room and see the gorgeous magnolia tree blooming in our front yard. I’m reminded again when I see the striking pink weeping cherry tree outside the bedroom window of our new house. And for these two trees, I am grateful.

These past few months have been quite a struggle, mainly due to my work situation and leaving an environment that was not good for me physically or emotionally. But I know there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel and if I just keep on truckin’, eventually “this too shall pass.” I’m hopeful that “good things come to those who wait” and that I will “reap what I sow.”

If you’re not a fan of cheesy, inspirational quotes maybe you should stop reading this blog now. I never was a big fan myself, until I learned that these simple quotes, sandwiched between three slices of Bible verses, prayer and faith, were the “meat” in my triple-decker daily pep talk sandwich I have to give myself to get out from under the mountain of negative thoughts that try to attack each day.

A cancer patient can become a hypochondriac quite easily, especially survivors of the rare kind that comes with a “cloudy with a higher chance of recurrence” forecast. But in order to prevent the evil C word from coming back, my doctors tell me I need to eat right, limit alcohol, exercise at least 5 times a week for 45 minutes each time and try to live a low-stress life. Easy as pie, right? Not so much. It is a daily struggle. But I know that even in dark times, like when I feel what I think is a new lump, get another reminder of a humungous hospital bill that still needs to be paid or get stress migraines from toxic people still trying to haunt me, that if I look for the good, appreciate the simple things and don’t beat myself up for little missteps, that I will be okay.

I think many of us suffer from trying to “keeping up with the Jones,” especially in the social media world. We see posts of our Facebook friends going to the gym every day, traveling the world, having a gazillion gorgeous and beautiful bff’s who always seem to be having way more fun than you are but we forget that’s not reality— it’s just their highlight reel. And personally I forget that I can’t push myself so hard to train for a 5K, 10K or any other K when it’s a challenge just to stay healthy when I’m only one year post-chemo.

I was supposed to be training over the last four weeks for a Mother’s Day 5K that’s coming up in a few weeks. My plan was to go to spinning class three times a week, run twice a week and go for a hike on the weekend with the family. But my sentinel-lymph-node-free body had other plans— like fighting off a 4-week-long illness that send me to the emergency room. I’m now feeling 95% better but only got to hike twice this past month and did spinning and running exactly zero times each.

Instead of getting down on myself for not accomplishing my goals, I need to remind myself that my body has been through a harsh battle, was pumped full of strong toxins that killed the bad cells and the good and may probably never be the same. I had five surgeries, chemo and radiation, each of which took its toll on me and can have long-term after effects. Plus I’m missing lymph nodes (that I used to take for granted) to fight off infection. I need to remind myself not to push so hard, not to strive for perfection and not to measure my bad days against someone else’s highlight reel. I need to remember to take things one day, and even sometimes one hour, at a time and celebrate life’s little daily achievements.

For other cancer fighters and survivors reading this now, I hope you will remember this too— you are stronger than you think, you are a fighter and you are an overcomer every day you wake up and breathe another breath. Take a look back to last week, last month or last year at this time and see just how far you’ve come.

In everyone’s life there are seasons. While it may look like you’re stuck in a cold and lifeless winter, don’t worry— springtime is here and is faithful to bring new life!

In prayer and meditation today the word that kept being brought to my mind was “gratitude.” I think that word is meant for me to focus on what I do have instead of what I don’t.

Google says gratitude is:

grat·i·tude
ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/
noun
  1. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of gratitude is:

“the state of being grateful :  thankfulness

Oprah Winfrey is a huge advocate for keeping a gratitude journal and writing at least five things a day that she is grateful for. My goal is three. I’m sure my list will grow each day. Watch Oprah’s video here about focusing on what you’re grateful for, even if you only start with being grateful for your breath.

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey

So what am I thankful for today? Many things! Here are a few:

  1. My awesome children with whom I got to spend a beautiful day with on Easter eating, laughing, playing games and hiking
  2. My amazing, selfless, funny, handsome, loyal, hard-working husband
  3. My faithful self-taught therapy dog who comforts all of us every single day
  4. My health, even though my joints still ache and I still get waves of tiredness, but I am 100% cancer-free!
  5. Springtime which brings beautiful blossoms, fresh air, sunlight and new life
  6. The power of prayer
  7. A handful of good, loving, loyal, faith-filled old friends
  8. A handful of beautiful, giving, talented new friends
  9. A steady job, even if it is only part-time (for now)
  10. A decent house in a gorgeous, safe and welcoming town

Healthy Living Made Simple’s website states that “the single greatest thing you can do to change your life today is to start being grateful for what you have right now. No gesture is too small when done with gratitude… By concentrating on what’s good and giving it your energy, you attract abundance. But if you focus on what’s lacking: money, time, resources you will never have enough. Gratitude opens the door to abundance consciousness because it gets you to the source, which is the source of all things.”

I’m going to try to post what I’m grateful for each day (maybe in a journal, maybe here on my blog) and I know my life will get better because of it. I hope you do the same and that yours does too!

 

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