All you have to do is lean in. All the way in…with a precise and constant gaze at an exact spot in front of you and choose the space you’re in.
And that is what we did. Pancreatic Cancer had arrived. Mom was fighting back with a vengeance and we were simply going to lean in. It seemed like the right thing to do. Actually, it seemed to me it was the only thing to do.
In just a few short months, the precious only ones she was supposed to have, things were looking up. We had the news that tumor markers were way down, the liver cancer was gone and the Pancreatic tumor had shrunk so small it was debated that it might only be dead cells. So it was gone? We wanted so badly to live into that, but learned that PC (as it was named) was never truly gone from ones’ system. Yet it was time to choose something other than the death sentence originally given…it was time to choose LIFE.
And so mom held her fingers to the keyboard and began tapping some positive thoughts to send out to the universe.
Truth be told, I am not brave at all this morning as the idea of a buzz cut and the final haircut has me down.
BUT NOT OUT. I remind myself that this is another bump. This is another reality check. I have to stop thinking that this is not my life and waiting for my other one to grow back. Just maybe my inability to accept that this chapter IS my life will be an asset. It is easier to fight a battle in which you don’t accept that defeat is an option…. despite the diagnosis and bumps.
“Life is for the living,” my dad would say.
And he was right. She was alive and we were all here to witness her life as well. It was time to start living into life, not the opposite. It was time to ignore that little frightened voice and start making plans. We did have plans. We had them on the calendar and in our hearts. First up…the beach.
Signs of life.
Memorial Day Weekend 2014.
Mom did make it across the causeway. But she didn’t just make it, she drove across it like a rock star. Her tumor markers remained low, tumors still M.I.A., and her ability to eat made a turnaround, even while continuing the weekly treatments. Guess what else turned around?
“Mom,” my sister said quietly while noticing her profile at dinner one night. “Your eyebrows…”
Mom looked into her eyes.
“Your eyebrows are growing back. I can see them!”
Eyebrows were just the beginning. By that summer, she had actual hair that made a cute little style surrounding her beautiful face. It was a true miracle and she was radiating with life. The doctors told us that wouldn’t happen. That as long as she was on chemo, her hair would not grow back. But then again, everything they said was also tainted with “everyone is different.”
15 months after diagnosis, we were leaning in with real intention. Eyes focused on only one thing: life. Surely hair regrown on her perfect little head was a reminder that she was alive.
“The miracle continues,” the doctor would announce with each scan.
The way my mom managed her cancer, was how we began to manage life as we leaned right in to what was coming our way. I mean, we could try and outrun it, but I have personally tried that, and it doesn’t help at all, only prolongs getting to the next step. And our next step was to start fighting back with a pocketful of sunshine and a little hope tucked in as well. From here forward we would interpret ‘everyone is different’ as the possibility that something great could occur.
We are reminded of many things as we watch her in awe.
Every minute, life will come at you. Do not be fooled into thinking you have control on what will come, how it will arrive or the package it will be in. It will just show up. There may be a warning or two, but you will still be surprised. Embrace it. Whatever it is, however it arrives, it is part of your life. So be there. Lean in, be present and find your focus. Even if it leaves you feeling wobbly at first, the confidence to stand in the most present moment will get to the next spot.
Face Life. Choose Life. Live Life.