If I am waiting until I am not scared to start my journey, my journey will never start. Courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to move in the face of it.
-daily affirmation from The Body is not an Apology
2015 was kind of a crap year for me. At the end of 2014, I discovered some things that told me it was time to move on. Enough was enough, time for a new beginning. I thought I was poised and ready for whatever fate had in store until fate actually showed up and decided to play hardball. Long story short, I finally had my first mammogram and got THE PHONE CALL a couple of hours later. “We see something unusual in your right breast, it’s probably nothing but you need to come in to have a diagnostic mammogram to be sure.” Let me tell you, when you have to go someplace that has the words Cancer Center in the title you start to worry. Here’s another piece of advice: when they invite you to get dressed and come in to the small consult room, it’s never good news. The radiologists thought I should have a biopsy, all the while telling me that it’s probably nothing but a biopsy was the only way to find out. About a week after the biopsy I was at Findlay Market on a tour of the new shop Dirt: a modern market when my phone rang, it was the surgeon. She said, “Are you someplace where we can talk?” I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but when it starts out with those words, they don’t really need to finish. The worst part was calling my daughters and telling them. I didn’t feel bad for myself but I felt like I had handed them the worst genetic pattern ever. They had just become young women with breast cancer genes from both sides of their family…mother, grandmother, aunt…mammograms beginning at age 40, every year with no exceptions. Stage 1 breast cancer, I thought this can’t be happening to me.
By June I had gone through a partial mastectomy and weeks of daily, massive radiation treatments. The bright spot was that I didn’t have to have chemo. My skin was burned and horribly scarred but the prognosis was very good. I couldn’t make it through the day without naps but they promised that would get better. Less that 2 weeks after I had been released from the radiation treatment there was another urgent phone call. My oldest brother was in the ER and had a massive heart attack. He wasn’t going to make it, I should get there ASAP. By early Saturday morning, he was gone. I felt blessed that his children allowed me to stay with them and sit in the vigil to give him comfort and permission to go on. It was an honor to watch him give in, stop the fight, and finally, peacefully, quietly pass on. There was a seventeen year age gap between us, we weren’t close, but man…he had always been there. He was the oldest anchor and I was the youngest. Life felt unbalanced with him gone.
A few weeks later I was sitting in some kind of community meeting at work, I can’t remember what it was about, but I started to wonder why I was wasting time. I had dreamed of starting a master’s program for years but never quite had the courage to complete an application. In July of 2015 I had been out of school for 30 years. I had never taken a course on-line or written a paper since the semester before I completed my student teaching in the spring of 1985. In less than a week I had applied, ordered transcripts from the University of Louisville, and been accepted into a Master of Arts in History and Culture program. Lord-a-mercy, what had I done?
I had started my journey. A movement toward fulfilling a dream. A footstep into a new life. A willingness to move in the face of fear. Freedom.