Happy Cinco de Mayo! I’m super emotional about this day and not just because it’s the one day during the year when it’s socially acceptable to drink too much tequila and wear Dylan McKay style bajas. Today my mom went through her first round of chemotherapy. Coincidentally, today also marks the one year anniversary of the night that I told my parents and best friends that I had cancer. It’s not often that I find myself in agreement with my mom on an emotional level (or on any other level, for that matter) but, even in the midst of what she is going through, she and I are pretty much on the same page when reflecting on the past year. Not to turn this into any kind of pity party, but my family has gone through a lot of shit over the past twelve months. Today my mom told me that, despite everything that we have gone through, this was probably the best year of her life because she discovered a side and strength in me and a side and strength in herself that she never knew existed.
The biggest lesson that I learned this year is that there is really nothing better than the feeling that you get when you surprise yourself. When you’re put in a situation that forces you to use more strength than you think you have, you’ll probably end up finding it somewhere. Before last year, I never thought that I could be the type of person who could survive a year of cancer. That sort of thing was reserved for the Lance Armstrongs of the world and I was just a girl who was too scared to even get on a bike (still am). Here’s something that you maybe don’t realize about dealing with cancer (or any horrible disease, for that matter) until you’re thrown up against it - you are going to do whatever you need to do to get through it because you don’t really have a choice.
Something else I learned - sometimes you’ll be surprised by others and it can be better than surprising yourself. For me, I was forced to put my guard down and face the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to get through this on my own. I was going to have to trust my friends to love me enough to not think of me as a burden and I had to trust my family to not treat me like I was defective. What I got to take away from this year is that nothing is more important than having people in your life who genuinely care for you. I’m not talking about the kind of person who is going to ask how you’re doing. I’m talking about the kind of person who is going to help you get to a place where you can be happy with the answer to that question. Those are the people who should really matter in your life.
I learned a lot this year, more than I could ever put into words. I learned how to be vulnerable. I learned how to be strong and I learned how to pretend to be strong. I learned that your body doesn’t owe you anything. I learned that we worry over a lot of stupid shit but that everybody has the right to their own worries, as long as you keep things in perspective. I’m also learning that, after denying it for 33 years, maybe my mom and I are more alike than I’ve ever admitted.
So I guess I get it when my mom says that this year that nobody would ever wish on anyone has probably been the best year of her life. Learning to understand yourself and what’s important in your life can be absolutely euphoric. Like I said, I’m just feeling really mushy tonight and it has nothing to do with drinking too much tequila or any latent 90210 nostalgia.