Honoring Our Survival

Happy Tuesday! Today is a special one for me.

Many of my clients, colleagues, and friends know I am a cancer survivor. Today is what I call my Cancerversary--diagnosis day. It's the day my life changed forever. It's also the day I decided to fight like hell for my life and my health. I won't ever forget it for lots of reasons.

Sometimes I become self-conscious and wonder why I'm still talking about this. There is a part of me that insists this experience should be "in the past", that I should "get over it", that I need to "move on" because I'm better now. Would I ever say that to my clients? Not in a million years. Isn't it interesting how we have expectations of ourselves that we would never have for other people? Isn't survival something to be celebrated every day? We are all here. We are all doing just that.

Not only that, but I keep sharing because I can. Because I'm here and I didn't die, even though I fell asleep many nights wondering if I would. Perhaps you are in the midst of surviving something yourself. Perhaps you are navigating the scariest thing you've ever experienced. Please know you aren't alone in that.

I was a month out of college and in the process of moving across the country for graduate school. Eleven years later, I realize just how young I was. It wasn't okay that this happened. But isn't it always times like that when we are punched in the gut? The times when we are so occupied with our lives that it takes something that attention-grabbing, that intense, to wake us up to what is right in front of us?

 This was taken the night of my head-shaving party where I was surrounded by the sweetest friends. I had just had surgery to insert a chemotherapy port in my chest a few days earlier. I knew I would lose my hair as a result of the chemotherapy side effects and I knew I would feel more empowered if we celebrated the moment. I donated my hair afterwards.

This was taken the night of my head-shaving party where I was surrounded by the sweetest friends. I had just had surgery to insert a chemotherapy port in my chest a few days earlier. I knew I would lose my hair as a result of the chemotherapy side effects and I knew I would feel more empowered if we celebrated the moment. I donated my hair afterwards.

What I think is incredible about these moments where everything changes is that in the end, they might be the worst or scariest thing that has ever happened to us. But more likely than not, we have navigated something more challenging before or we will in the future. I realize that sounds a little bit grim, but it gives me perspective. Receiving this diagnosis and healing from cancer was not the hardest thing I've done in my life. For some people, it is. I don't know if that makes me less lucky or more lucky, or just human.

I've always been a tender-hearted person, but this experience has illuminated the sacredness of everyday life (I mean that in the least corny way possible). When I consider what I would miss if I wasn't alive today, what comes to mind are small and simple interactions. Watering the plants. Scratching my dog behind her ears and watching her eyes softly close when she relaxes. The feeling of climbing in to bed after a long day, saying goodnight to my partner, and snuggling up to rest. Hugs from my mom and the way she still calls me Pumpkin even though I am going to be 33 soon. Knowing that all of these things might have never happened allows me to deeply experience the beauty of them. They feel like bonuses in life that were never guaranteed so I appreciate them even more.

Look at how we grow. Look at how we show up for ourselves when we believe we are worthy of it. Look at how we heal. Look at how all of those times we thought we wouldn't make it through the day, wouldn't tolerate the deep ache of living for another moment, we were wrong. Look at how we love each other. I believe that this is what it means to survive.

The fact that I get to be here to do all of these things is enough to break my heart in the best of ways. I often feel the need to pinch myself because I am so in love with the work I do in the world. So in love with my life. The privilege of living and breathing and showing up is one I don't take lightly. It doesn't mean things don't suck sometimes. They totally do. But I also see the gifts in the shit. I see the opportunities that arise when we wade through it. That's how we get to the good stuff. The most beautiful stuff. The realest, rawest, most vulnerable stuff.

So today I want to know: how do you honor your survival? How do you recognize yourself for everything you have been through, the challenges you have navigated, the times when you weren't sure you would make it? How do you see yourself for who you are, and for where you are--right here?

And damn, I sure am thankful to be here with you.

Love,

Elizabeth