When her son was not quite two years old, Jennifer was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a double mastectomy, radiation and reconstruction, she found that she now sees life completely differently.
In the days before I knew that everything would turn out okay, I used to walk around my bedroom praying, "Please God, please God, please..." I was so afraid my children would forget me. That I wouldn't be there for them. There are so many things I see differently now that I've been through this. When I hear about someone getting mad about something, I often want to tell them there are more important things to spend your energy on. It isn't that I don't still get upset about stupid things, it is just that I have a different perspective.
It was really hard adjusting to going back to work in the beginning because so much of it seemed unimportant. I'm still coming to terms with that. Obviously it matters because it provides for our family, but I have boundaries. I've learned to say, "I have a hard stop at this time. I have to go be with my kids."
Not too long after I went back to work, a co-worker who was well-loved passed away and we all went to the funeral. Someone made the comment that it was a shame that he didn't get to hear how many people loved him. I thought about that. I did get to know how many people love me. We had just joined a church and people brought meals. I got cards from people I hadn't heard from in years. People I didn't even know were praying for me. Whenever I looked at the pile of cards encouraging me, I was amazed at the size. It was a huge boost to my self-esteem. We don't really think people love us...
When I talk with others who have been given the diagnosis, I always tell them there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There will be days when you don't wake up and think about cancer. You will be happy again.
And for everyone, I want to tell you to enjoy your life and not get caught up in the stuff. I still need reminding of that. As you get further away from the experience, the lessons can fade.
If I had to do it over again I would still choose the cancer. It's hard for us to make the changes we need unless something big happens.
© Cathy Hutchison 2012