Jennifer Williams

Since I learned I had breast cancer, I have read many stories about how other women found out about their diagnosis.  Every one of them described varying degrees of shock, devastation, confusion.  Butevery one also found new purpose.   I was much the same.  This was brand new turf.  There was no breast cancer in my family.  I had no friends or fellow workers that had it.  It was not in my life, and now it was in my breast.  I haven’t had even so much as my tonsils out, and the only time I spent in a hospital was to give birth.  How was I going to do this?  I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it – I went from ‘when there are multiple tumors, it’s usually benign’, to mastectomy in about five minutes.  “Now that I’ve seen the results of your MRI, I’m even more concerned”, were the words I heard that started my ride on the cancer train.  And before I knew it, my husband and I were in my new surgeon’s office, followed immediately with a trip to my new best friend, my plastic surgeon.  Then I had a surgery date and the countdown began.  I didn’t have a minute to process in that flurry of activity, but luckliy there was a lull in the few weeks before the surgery.  Time to contemplate, and once I realized I wasn’t going to die, I had to decide how I was going to live.

How did this happen to me?  I ate all the right foods, exercised daily, slept like a log.  No one can tell me how I got cancer, but there is unlimited information on what to do once you have been diagnosed.  I realized the one thing I hadn’t been doing despite all my attempts at a healthy life was sitting still and listening to me.  I have been a wife, mother, employee, competitor – many things, but never my own self advocate.  I took care of everyone’s needs first.  It was impossible for me to let things slide – not cook dinner, not get the dishes done, laundry cleaned, groceries bought, no matter how tired or otherwise occupied.  And ask for help?  Never.  No one could do it like I could.  And so I had created this incredibly busy life for myself.  Sit?  Wouldn’t happen.  Nap?  Not since I was five.  But guess what?  Life had decided it was time for me to let go, sit still and, yes, even ask for help.  And once life decides something, that’s pretty much it.

I have read multiple books on healing yourself, loving yourself and advocating foryourself,  but had failed to put any of it into daily practice.  I have been in counseling and have become addicted to yoga.  I know all the things to do to take care of myself and be peaceful within, but I never did any of it with any regularity.  Self doubt, guilt and strife are so easy.  But suddenly, peace became my focus.  I remember promising my body before I went into surgery that I would do everything possible to protect it and take care of it so there would be no more surgery.  After a decade of incredibly stressful events – divorce, moving, unemployment – I decided I would be peaceful.  No matter what was going on around me, I would be peaceful.  Now, we all know you can’t just flip that switch.  But I tried peaceful on for size and started walking around in it.  I soon found that I didn’t want to engage in negative conversations with myself or anyone else.  I only wanted positive messages coming into my world.  I stopped trying to just get through, and worked on enjoying every moment.  No more head phones on when I walk – I listen to the birds.  I stopped blaming and started accepting.  And I have found some amazingly wonderful people have appeared. All this has happened in just a few months.  So, crazy as it seems, cancer has brought me peace.  I don’t love anything about cancer or the cure, but I am so grateful I learned this lesson.  I don’t know what else could have slapped me so hard and make me start changing my life.  I know I have to work on it every day, but it’s good work.  And, yes, I have even learned how to ask for help.  And you know what?  I get it.