Christy Powers continues to process her breast cancer diagnosis; she shares her thoughts as her surgery date approaches and searches out her courage.
I’ve always loved January as a fresh start of a new year. Mine is usually filled with annual work trips that include some of my closest friends on the road. It always feels like a family reunion and getting the chance to work with so many of them always starts my year off right.
Before I left for my first trip of the year, the hardest part for me was taking down the Christmas tree. If you know me well, you probably know I am sentimental. It is my sentiment that helps remind me of my humanity these days. That sentiment is my conscious and my judge and drives my hopes for my future. And through this time of struggle, of getting used to living with something that is trying to kill me, I have used my sentiment as a powerful crutch.
The crutch came in forms of holiday decorations, the Colorado snow, and countless hours of watching Aaron Sorkin’s shows and movies. These things filled me with beautiful sentiment. They helped me dream of a world I wish existed instead of the often scary and chaotic one that is the reality for cancer patients. This fictitious ideological present I wrapped myself within allowed me to keep the fear and worry at bay. If fear and worry were honest with themselves, wouldn’t they too choose to face cancer in this kind of world?
After the rose-colored glasses of the holiday’s sentiment wore off and I was pulled back into the routine of my life, I realized I felt different. And a new friend of mine shared the thought that through cancer, for some reason, the universe wanted to get my attention and to get it now. That thought made my mind spin out of control. But as out of control as I felt from cancer, I also felt I had to start looking for the answer to that question.
Life is driven from perspective. I don’t think I realize that enough. If I want to change my world, change my mind. Free thought is a gift I was given from birth. I control what I think and what I choose to do. I do what I know. I think from what I feel.
At any given time I can make a decision that changes the next minute, possibly the day’s outcome, and even my direction in life. But I can’t possibly go around and think of the magnitude of every decision I make. It would be crippling. So I rely on my instincts, morals, character, and insight to make the choices for me.
And most of my actions, if I look deeper, are driven from two strong emotions: fear or love. With each choice, I have to decide which of the two is driving my thoughts and stirring my emotions. Then I can decide if I am making this decision or choice because of love; seeking something or bravely moving towards something or from fear; running from something or afraid to take that risk in that moment?
For me, I began to realize that the Universe was trying to get my attention to let me know the story I had been writing for my life recently was beginning to be written through the eyes of fear. My actions had not been aligned with the dreams I wanted out of my life. I had been looking at the world through my head when I should have been looking at it through my heart.
Most of my friends would not know that the past couple of years were difficult for me and I had built a wall preventing others to get too close. I had my heart broken one too many times and became complacent with distance and a distorted view that being alone is a safe way to live. I didn’t have to be vulnerable. I didn’t have to take risk. I just had to be there for those that I had in my life already. But having that much distance as my comfort zone, even the relationships I held onto became jeopardized and I began to fall into a dangerous void of human contact. My mind had tricked me through the direction of fear that going through life alone would be just fine.
Fine was the path I was on but I used to be a fighter of “fine.” I used to believe, why would anyone want just fine in life when I can have amazing, wonderful, and overjoyed? In every moment there is a possibility of a better future I just had to believe it. And being just fine is not believing in a better future.
Then one day last year, cancer came along to disturb my life of just fine. I instantly had been given a wake-up call. I had been taking actions and making decisions that caused me to be alone. Being alone was scary but manageable when fear has you believing that that is the way to protect you from getting hurt again.
But now I had to face the scariest thing I had gone through in life alone and that showed me what real fear looked like. I began to understand the saying, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” I needed to find courage from my more important that I was seeking in my life.
I first had to let people in and let them know I would need help. Cancer had stripped away my strength to give me permission to fall apart and learn to accept help, kindness, hugs, prayers, and support. I found out I had so much support it was shocking. I gratefully had to relearn to let people help me get through this.
Settling into all this support, January flew by and now it is February. As the protection wall I had built starts to crumble and I happily get used to being close to new and old friends again, I also realize that I have been putting my life on hold when it comes to dating. When people ask me if I am dating anyone, my fear tries to protect me with thoughts like, How can I right now? or Who wants to date the girl with cancer?
But a fellow breast cancer survivor shared with me a brave thought shared by her doctor that “this will be the best screening tool for men that you’ve ever had.” You get to find out the kind of man they are right away, someone who won’t stick around for the tough times in your life or the guy that you would be happy to have supporting you through these kind of times; the one worth your time.
So, I open the door to dating. It isn’t easy. All that uneasiness everyone feels in the beginning is now mixed with the contradicting feelings of letting myself be vulnerable but strong at the same time. I need to be soft when bravely showing my heart and strong when discovering if he will take care of it. I describe love as “finding someone that takes care of your heart.” The words taking care; show respect, responsibility, honor, trust, faith, and hope; in another’s care of you. I think my grandparents knew this and lived this. And I would love to find that man that understands what I am describing.
Now that I am thinking with my heart, I will allow myself to have bad days. I will reach out to my friends for help and allow myself to feel what I need to feel. I will let my friends know the days that I am just saying I have courage instead of actually feeling it. And let them carry me until I can find my strength to stand again.
And on my good days it brings me relief to do my part to spread some kindness. It is so simple to do and most graciously received by those that are missing it. Life can be very unkind sometimes and because my life has shown me how strong kindness feels I want to help others feel it when they need it the most. Living this way will help me take my focus off of feeling sick or tired and putting it to better use.
Very soon the countdown will begin to my surgery date. It will be on March 14. Every day that it gets closer I do at times feel nervous, scared, anxious, and worried if I will be okay through it all. It’s funny how the foundation of all the encouragement and strength I have built with the help of so many can be wavered by a momentary lapse of focus filled with fear again. So I still have work to do each day to stay in the positive mindset I graciously strive for.
So, I thank God I am not alone. I am thankful that I got my wake-up call even if it had to come through cancer. And believe me, Universe, I’m paying attention now. I look forward to what you want me to see, feel, and live through.
Musically inspired by the David Gray song, “Back in the World”
[Editor’s Note: Christy needs help affording the treatment she needs, her insurance is only going to go so far, please consider donating money to Christy Powers’ Breast Cancer Fundraiser through GiveForward.]
The header image is a piece of art by Lisa DiAmor, visit her website HERE.