A breast cancer survivor shares her experiences with the BRCA gene.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Lesson on Healing

Today, I ventured out for my first official errand since surgery...a trip to the farmer's market.  The market is a real treat since it carries all sorts of organic produce, wild Alaskan salmon, exotic spices and freshly baked breads, among other things.

Following doctor's orders to "ease back into things" and the "no lifting over 10 pounds" rule, my goal was to make a quick trip, buy only a few items and return home safe and sound.

Walking into the market was like entering a Christmas wonderland.  Colors and textures and aromas.  Oh, my!  Flaming red beets and orange turban squash and purple potatoes and rich green brussel sprouts.

Yes, I stayed too long, bought too much and wore myself out.  And, I discovered an interesting fact:  healthy food weighs a lot.

The Way of Love

In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman spells out the different ways we express and want to receive love: Words of Affirmation (You're wonderful!), Quality Time (Up for a drive in the country?), Physical Touch (Well, yeah...), Receiving Gifts (Americans specialize in this)...and Acts of Service.

Although we can appreciate each of these expressions, there tends to be one that speaks to us most, in which we deeply feel loved. Unfortunately for my husband, I feel most loved by Acts of Service.  If only I could be bought off with a ring.  But, no, I prefer him hauling barrels of compost to my garden beds each spring, which he loathes.

I bring this up because during the cancer treatment process--or, I should say ordeal--people have been amazing in showering me with love.  I've received cards and books and warm pajamas.  I've been sent dozens of cards with touching sentiments.  People have told me how special I am and how I've impacted their lives.  All of these things have greatly moved me.

In addition to these gifts, the Acts of Service have carried me through the most difficult times, and I can't emphasize enough how vital it is to have people lend a hand -- and be able to accept their generosity graciously. 

I've pretty much been on the giving end of the equation, in which I was control, I was the strong one, I was capable.  I suspect this is true for most breast cancer patients.

Being on the other side, in which I was the vulnerable one, the weak one, the dependent one...well, that was hard to accept.  And a lot of that has to do with pride. It's hard to admit to yourself that you're not the all powerful, invincible super-woman you thought. You're mortal like the rest.

Once again, during this last surgery, I had friends who took the time, trouble and effort to sit at the hospital during surgery, drive me places, bring me homemade soup, walk my dog, run my errands...lend a hand anyway they could. Of course, my husband and my parents were there for me along the way.  But having friends to give them some relief was an enormous gift. They are the super-women.

Throughout my experience with cancer, I've learned many things, but one of the most crucial lessons is this: you simply can't get through cancer without the love of others.