A Survivor’s Guide to Hope

Happily plodding along in the prime of life I got a wake-up call of phenomenal proportions. Otherwise also known as a major kick in the butt. It forced me to rethink everything. I was impelled to make the most important choices. What matters most in the universe and in my life.

Two years ago I discovered a lump in my right breast. We were on holiday on a beautiful tropical island resort in Malaysia when I got the results from the hospital confirming that I had breast cancer. Surreal how right under a warm blue sky, swaying palm trees and children squealing that my whole world came crumbling down.

It was the single most terrifying moment of my life. A wave of dismay swept over me. The first thing that flew to my mind was my son who was only three at that time. He was my world. All I’ve ever known was that I will always be there to hold my baby’s hand as he grows up, watch him get married, scoop my grandchildren into my arms…and to simply grow old, sweet and fuzzy together with my husband. (me sweet he fuzzy).

All the things which I took as my rightful due in life seemed like a very tall order suddenly.

The basic survival instinct that kicked in was to gather up all my inner reserves and channel it on getting through one day at a time. I needed to be there completely for my child. I was his safe haven. In the midst of this devastating news my biggest test was to live out each day the principles and values that I had always wanted to impart and mould him into. Courage. Dignity. Perseverance. The choice to be happy. Now I had to walk the talk.

While others found it useful join support groups, I found it too raw and too real to even talk about it. I didn’t want it to take over our lives. But as I heal and energy returns I find my mind brimming and buzzing excitedly with new thoughts and ideas. So, at 40 I’m writing my first blog (or at least just the 780th time reworking  this one same post. I can already tell I have a bright career as a budding blogger.)

Now, I can finally talk about it. Time does soften the blow.

Going through chemotherapy was a very humbling experience. Yet, it was during those times when I felt the weakest that I also became the strongest. And as ironic as this might sound, this Great Intervention has been a blessing in disguise for me. I think I have learnt more in this one year than I have in the last 39! Nothing like sheer terror to guide you to the right path I say.

Somehow, we become suddenly more teachable when we are suffering, desperate and bald.

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”  C.S. Lewis

I have learnt that it is still possible to be happy and grateful through tough times. Life takes on a dazzling beauty and we gasp in amazement as if we are seeing it for the first time. I believe this is what it means to be reborn. It’s been over a year since I’ve completed my treatment. I’ve been given a clean bill of health by the oncologist who is very happy with my prognosis.

The reason I’m sharing this part of my life here is not because breast cancer defines me but because in many ways everything which flows from me today flows from that place of quiet stillness after the storm.

I am writing this blog because after a long parched journey I feel like a fresh new leaf unfurling under the living waters of a gentle rain. Sometimes we need to die so that we can live. I don’t know what you are going through right now in your life but I hope that in your darkest hours you will find peace. That whatever seems bleak right now will one day yield an abundance of harvest. And just as seasons change, may your season of mourning turn into dancing. May you find restoration and like the phoenix, you too will rise again from the ruins and rubbles. I cherish this wish that by reading this you will have hope once again.