A Birthday and an Oncologist

I spent my 41st birthday in an oncologists waiting room.

Sitting on lumpy chairs under fluorescent lights, cringing at the puke-green walls in the basement of the hospital. My husband Dean beside me, keeping his fears tightly wrapped inside.

Waiting.

Ironically, that day was when I came up with the name of this blog: The Inspired Life Journey.

On a day that didn’t feel inspired. Or consciously created. Who wants to spend any day (let alone their birthday) waiting to see someone who specializes in pathology? Not me. And yet it didn’t ruin my day. It was exactly where I wanted to be: beside my husband.

I think that is actually the point. Real life has shitty moments.

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And trust me, we’ve had our share of them over the years. From financial crises to the devastating loss of loved ones. Years of blood, sweat and tears from the ever-changing challenges of being self-employed. Wading through the muddy waters of self esteem, doubts and fears; questioning myself in the most fundamental roles I play – as a mother, wife, chiropractor and ultimately as a human being. Wondering – Do I really have what it takes to do this ‘life thing’ well?

But as awful as life can feel when you’re deep in the trenches, I do know that our challenges have strengthened us immensely – immeasurably. We have realized – trial by fire – that life goes on regardless of our own suffering. It’s how we show up in the hard moments that defines us.

And so – I am thankful for the multitude of hard moments we have weathered. They have shown us that we can move forward, even when obstacles seem insurmountable. We have discovered that we do, in fact, have the courage required to do The Work – to delve deep into who we are, understanding what drives us, what our beliefs, fears and dreams are, what our strengths and weaknesses are, what values we base our lives upon, and ultimately – knowing the impact to we want to have on the world. The Work has allowed us to know ourselves well – and to welcome uncertainty into our lives – even when it scares us – and especially when it means going towards something that calls us deeply.

Like moving home. Nova Scotia. Where my heart has always been – despite 16 years away. Home – the beacon that called to my heart and gave us the courage to take the enormous leap of faith required to give up everything we had created in our lives and move across the country to start all over again.

And if Dean were to be sick – or if anything were to happen to my parents – words cannot express how incredibly grateful I am to be surrounded by family and support. What if this had happened when we lived in Ontario? The idea of facing a serious illness or losing my life’s partner is more than I can contemplate. Doing it alone? Terrifying.

So even in the shitty moments – like on my birthday – I am aware of my choices. Consciously creating my life means choosing how I want to be and who I want to show up as. Choosing what I want to focus on. Even when it’s hard… no: especially when it’s hard. We have certainly learned that it’s how you show up in those moments that tells the true story.
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It was not cancer.

On our visit that day, the oncologist looked at the CT scan and X-ray and told us that the growth in Dean’s jawbone was assuredly benign. A large cyst and an infected jaw bone. Causing symptoms and making Dean feel unwell – yes. Explaining months of him feeling that something just wasn’t right. But threatening his life? No.

Oh Great Breath of Relief. My shoulders drop. Confirmation of what I wanted: This is a good day. Thank you Thank you Thank you.

And then Dean looked at the surgeon – and steeled himself to ask the question that made my heart stop: “How sure are you that it’s not… not more serious?”

And in that moment, I saw how scared he had been. In that moment, I saw such stark fear etched into the lines of his face – and I never want to see that again for as long as I live. The face of the man I love, the man who is my rock – ravaged with fear – is one that I will never be able to get out of my mind.

Until that moment, I had not known that he had been preparing himself to be told that he was terminally ill. He had wrestled with this quietly, keeping the depths of it tucked closely inside.

I had known he was worried. I knew he didn’t feel well.

But I didn’t know that he had walked himself through the devastation it would put our family through if he were to die. Every part of his being wanted to protect us, love us, and support us – keeping us free from harm. He had wrestled with how losing him would devastate me and our kids – and he desperately did not want to put us through that.

He wasn’t afraid of dying. He was afraid of leaving us.

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The truth is: this is a fear of mine. I am afraid of losing the people I love. I don’t want to imagine my life without Dean. Or my kids – oh my God. That’s the one thing I just don’t know if I would ever recover from.

And yet… people do. Normal people. They aren’t superhuman (although it may appear to be that way at times) I think that the reality is that people are stronger and more resilient than we think. It isn’t until life hands us the Great Challenges that we discover ourselves to be far more powerful than we ever thought possible.

So while we – thankfully – did not have to travel very far down the road of dealing with a serious illness, it was still three months of facing the real possibility of that being our next huge hurdle in life. Facing potential loss, uncertainty, pain, grief – and a situation that put Dean in the position to contemplate his mortality.

Instead it was day surgery and a few weeks of recovery. Powerful antibiotics and painkillers. What a relief it was that that particular Great Challenge turned out to be a small one.

But the learning from it – the experience of walking down the path of ‘what if” – therein lies the reason that our visit to an oncologists office lead to the lightbulb moment of what my next blog would be. My Inspired Life – and the Journey it takes us on – which is full of these real moments, overwhelming emotions, fears and uncertainty – and the fact that when push comes to shove, I do trust that I would find the courage and strength to weather any storm. Even the ones I fear most.

That is my compass. Knowing that deep inside, I would find what I needed to carry me forward, no matter the circumstances. That I would waiver, and doubt, feel fear and pain – and yet also have moments of beautiful clarity, connection and certainty. Knowing that maybe, just maybe, I could, in fact, trust life.

That, my friends – is what my inspired life journey is about.

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