This week has been nuts. Totally bananas. But, like, banana split bananas; not the mushy kind that your mom put in your sack lunch. Between my budoir session (oh yes, that happened — without boobs — and I WILL tell you all about it next time!) and this blog contest (Umm…hi, you guys ROCKED IT!!!! Thankyousomuch!), I have almost had more love thrown at me than my little heart can handle. It’s not just this week though; it’s this whole experience. I’ve been trying to sort through it and to think of a way to explain my feelings to you all, and I think I’ve come to it.
Cancer has given me a little preview of my funeral, and it has been the best. Just THE best.
No, I am not telling you that I am dying or anything crazy. The cancer is not back. What I am saying is that you all opened up to me in a way that you maybe wouldn’t have if death hadn’t tried to knock at my door.
When my mom died, so many people sent cards and letters telling us how much they loved her. These notes told wonderful stories of her and often mentioned specific ways that she touched their lives. Her wake was packed, and so many kind words were spoken in choked voices. Still, today, people stop to tell me what a good friend she was or what am impact she had on them.
Sometimes I think, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if she could hear all of this for herself?”
Well, I feel like I have. That is one of cancer’s gifts. (They are few and far between.) So many of you have sent cards, letters, or facebook messages FULL of love. I have been reminded of some really great memories and reconnected with some really great friends. We all love each other (for the most part, I really do believe), but it’s not often that we express it. My cancer gave you guys a free pass to tell me how you felt, and it has been amazing. Not only did it REALLY lift me up during the hardest year of my life, but it has given me a new view of the world and how we love.
But even more amazing than your words of encouragement and love have been your ACTS of love. Countless meals. Anonymous care packages in the mail. A mowed lawn. A pink bracelet on your wrist. A hand-made prayer blanket. A friend brushing my hair (oh, my hair!) when my arms couldn’t reach after surgery. My cousins cleaning my house, folding my laundry, making cancer jokes with me. My brother texting me almost every night from work to check on me. Our librarian helping me find books to explain this all to Penny. Doug Bristow shaving his beard into a cattail AND competing in an Ironman Race IN A DRESS in the name of raising money to pay my bills.
ALL the donations. The ice bucket challenges in my honor. A friend spending the evening with me when I couldn’t do much more than lay on the couch.
Just so much more.
And on the other side of this funeral business, cancer also gave me a taste of the end of my life, and I found myself screaming back, “Oh, hell no! I’m not done yet!” I’ve really barely gotten started. Previewing your own funeral will make you live. your. life, my friends. And love the people in it with a wonderful ferocity.
There was a night, about three weeks after my diagnosis, that I really thought I was dying. I have had my fears and doubts throughout, but on this night, one week after my double mastectomy, I really, really thought that I wouldn’t make it through this.
I had spent the day with my dad, who was taking care of my girls. As I sat on the couch, my hand found its way to a new lump just under my collarbone.
Wide-eyed, I asked, “Dad, what IS THIS?”
The look in my dad’s eyes after assessing the “new lump” for himself is not a look you ever want to see in your parent’s eyes. That look scared me more than the lump itself.
I was dead. I knew it. So that night I laid in bed with Penny, staring at her sweet little sleeping face, and had one of the worst nights of my life. Sorrow. So much sorrow. And loneliness.
The thing is — now that I’m on the other side (hopefully forever) — I’m glad that I had that night. It was a night that stripped me bare. That night taught me a deeper love. That night taught me serious compassion. That night forever changed me for the better. I don’t want to have another night like it, for sure, but I wouldn’t take it back. (And the lump actually turned out to be the end of a drain that I hadn’t noticed before. Doh!)
Tonight, I am having a very different kind of night. Almost, the exact opposite kind of night. I can’t sleep tonight because I feel so alive. I found myself this year, AND I feel so loved and supported. The way you guys rallied around me and this blog has blown me away, and I can’t thank you enough. I just can’t.
Wouldn’t it be really awesome if we could say all the things we want to say and support each other in the best of ways, like you guys have done for me, without the all sickness and dying? Because I feel like this little sneak peak of my funeral (you know, from YEARS and YEARS down the road) has been just great.