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.

PicMonkey Collage DOug

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.


25 comments on “Cancer is kind of like getting to sit in at your own funeral.”

  1. My illness (Alcoholism) opened my eyes to gratitude for all the people in my life, though it’s nowhere near what you experienced. Thank you for your wisdom. You put things in perspective.for me. More than you will ever know. Your Mom is smiling down on you from Heaven. I loved her so!

  2. That’s really the only thing that gives me peace with my Dad’s death. He was sick for a long time…we almost lost him six times. I was able to tell him over and over what he meant to me. That truly is a gift. Heather, you are a beautiful person and it is a gift to know how much everyone loves you. There is no doubt about how much you are loved girl! You got through this and you are going to live a long beautiful life!

    • Thank you, and I sure hope so!

      And yes, your dad was so loved too. I’m glad that I even got to let him know how I felt too.

  3. All the women from the breast friends facebook group have been religiously following this blog and voting every chance we get. Counting down til we can vote again. I think ypu were somewhere in the 5 or 6 thpusand range when megan baiter posted your blog and well i think we went a lil crazy. Lol but were all rooting for you! (My attempt at A lil breastfeeding humor. Get it? Rooting? Like how babies root when theyre hu-….nvm lol) but way to go with the awesome blog writing. You definitely have a unique talent for writing. You honestly shpuld write a book about your journey. Ill be waiting on my autographed copy. ;p congrats girl! On your blog and on your life. Keep rockin it!

    • Boob humor = hilarity.

      Thanks to you and your whole group for the support! I was doing the same until my boobs up and tried to kill me, so that was a real fast weaning process.

      And thanks for your kind words. I will autograph anything you want me to; just keep pumping my ego. (Get it, pumping? …Oh, my.)

  4. You are not done yet! God is not done with you yet! May he continue to bless you and utilize your talent and skills through your words and career to help us all see what is really important. I am thankful for your continued health and I wish for your success with this blog you have and are continuing to write. I feel you should publish it as well ! I can see every nurse on every cancer floor reading it, as part of their nursing education as a required assignment ! 🙂

  5. I had never heard of your blog until I saw the post on BREAST FRIENDS so I voted and shared the link. All my close girlfriends voted and shared the page on their walls. It felt good to see so many women rally behind you. And whoop that mean commenter by 2000 plus points. Furthermore I spent all day reading all of your articles on your blog and just crying and laughing with you. Even though I have never met you, I feel like I know and care about you. May God continue to bless your life and family. Congrats on the win it was well deserved!

    • You Breast Friends ladies have been so good to me! I can’t even describe the warm and fuzzies I felt while watching so many people in my life and SO MANY people that didn’t even know me rally behind me in support. Amazing. Thank you for your kind words!

  6. Just wanted you to know I gave two keynote addresses when I was talking about my new peer-to-peer app, Ask HIV, in Canada and I mentioned your blog both times about important voices in health doing some incredible things! Congrats on your success and sending you tons of hugs from HIV advocates! 🙂 *hugs*

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