Friday, August 29, 2008

Breahe In Breathe Out

Before cancer, many of us go through life pretty clueless. I know I did. I worried about things that seem trivial now: a petty difference with a co- worker, irritation over a spill on the carpet, too many things to do and too few hours in the day to do them. I spent my days running around and making myself crazy over the smallest details.

After my diagnosis and throughout most of my treatment, I went back and forth from borderline hysteria to resignation and depression.

Then one day, for the first time in many months, I was feeling physically strong enough to take on a few errands by myself. I went to
the post office to buy stamps.

As I stood in the long line - a little weak in the knees, and more than a bit queasy in the stomach - I began to feel rather proud of myself. I thought I have been through so much in the last year. I have been sicker than I ever thought a human being could be and still be alive, but here I am. I'm still standing, I'm doing things for myself again and,hey, this feels pretty good!

Then I noticed that two women ahead of me were becoming very agitated and vocal about the long, slow-moving line. They began complaining loudly that they had "better things to do" than wait in line at the post office "all day."

I thought about that for a minute and then asked myself Do I have anything better to do today than what I'm doing right this minute? Do I have anything better to do than just be alive and grateful? And then the answer: Nope.

That's when it happened. I felt myself begin to glow. Today I tell people that it was either an epiphany or the mother of all hot flashes, but whatever it was, it was powerful and life-altering. So I just stood there, basking in its warmth, and I slowly began to understand some important truths: This moment is all I have. And in this moment, there is nothing I really have to do except breathe in, breathe out
and say "Thank you!"

I wanted to say something to the two women. I wanted to ask them if they had any idea how lucky they were to be able to stand there in that line, if they knew how many people would gladly change places with them, if they even had a clue what a priceless gift it is to be able to stand in a line and buy stamps all by yourself!
But of course I didn't.

Many people argue that there is nothing good that comes of the cancer experience. I disagree. I believe that, if we allow it to, cancer can bring us many gifts. One of the gifts of cancer is the gift of patience. I no longer "sweat the small stuff." I don't allow petty differences with co-workers to even happen. If there are people who are confrontational or negative, I can choose to keep my distance from them. A spill on the carpet is laughable. My response to most things is, "So what? In the grand scheme of things, how important is it really?" Most of the time, the answer is that
it's not important at all.

Dear God, help me to remember that this moment is all that any of us has, whether we are cancer survivors or not. Our lives are in Your hands, and every day we are alive is a gift filled with new possibilities and opportunities. All we have to do is open Your "present". And please help me to remember that there is nothing I have to do that is more important than breathing in and breathing out and thanking you for the fact that I am alive today.