In my last post we started the story of L, who was devastated by a fierce bone and organ recurrence just six months after her first treatment for breast cancer.
She’d “done everything right”, from eating well to proactively seeking the blessings in the experience. She was poised to become a cancer coach and share her hard-won lessons with others. Now she was back to square one, with a much harder road ahead.
Determined to live she returned to treatment, which pushed her to her limit with pain and exhaustion. But the cancer didn’t budge. Her oncology team, though skilled and supportive, quickly ran out of treatment options.
L began to ask herself hard questions. How will my kids manage without me? Will they be angry with me if I die?
These questions were inevitable, and I helped L explore her “worst case scenario” thoughts. But we agreed those thoughts couldn’t make up the majority of her conversation. If she truly wanted to live, her conversations – inside her own head and with others – had to reflect life. (Tweet that!)
“I’ll keep trying to find a treatment that works,” she told me. “But I don’t think treatment is really what’s going to heal me. That will come from me.”
She persisted in searching for a way to turn back the disease. After obtaining additional opinions, researching clinical trials and exploring alternative healing methods, she decided to travel to Vienna for a multiple-approach treatment. The doctors in Vienna were reserved about her prospects, but agreed to have her start.
L made friends among the patients of the clinic, only to see some of them succumb to their illness. Holding on to a conversation about life was more challenging than ever. But she felt well enough to travel a bit between rounds of treatment, and was overjoyed when her sons came to visit.
Within weeks, her tests began to show improvement. After a few months, her doctors were astonished but thrilled to tell her that there was no sign of cancer in her bones.
Though she continues maintenance chemo, it has few side effects and she feels well. “I went there dying,” she said, “and now I’m alive again.”
When, I asked her, did she turn the corner from dying to living?
“When you’re in pain and you wonder how long you’re going to get, you think life begins after you feel OK,” she said. “I learned that’s not true. Life always starts today.”
Amen to that.
Today I woke up to a view of a sparkling, cloudless sky, punctuated by pink dogwood blossoms from the tree outside my window. I had my favorite blueberry kale smoothie for breakfast. I sat down at my desk and set my priorities for the day, one of which is to write this post for you. How fortunate I am that my daily routine and work nourish me and make me feel more alive. And if there’s a day that they don’t, well, I get to tweak my choices. L reminded me that the choice to feel alive is in my hands.
Tell me below: what will you do today to feel more alive?
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