Live, Love, and Live, Exhale
The two-month anniversary of being declared cancer free was celebrated with an email from the girls from C4YW, an organisation that holds an annual confab for young women with breast cancer. I had heard about the awesomeness of the gathering – several hundreds of women under 40, all who share a common bond and experience, a unique coterie. I’d been awarded a small travel grant to attend the conference being held in the happiest place on earth, otherwise known as Disney World.
When I shared the news with the boyfriend-fiancé he said “Good, that’s good” in a monotone, and then moved onto his favourite topic of football and sports talk radio. Sometimes it isn’t what is said but rather what is unsaid that feels like a punch to the heart. Cancer or not I was fast discovering as I got to know him better how perhaps incompatible we were in many ways, and how these incompatibilities sometimes seemed to trump whatever romance and love was there. I was furious at the reality, at him and myself.
Jerk, I thought, why are you being such a jerk? Ok, the old Amy was resurfacing quickly, the fast-paced, quick-tempered woman whose emotions can surge like Mount St. Helens about to erupt. A funny thing happens now though whenever I feel on the cusp of losing it - just before a potential meltdown I ask myself if it’s worth it, if it’s worth the stress of getting stressed and sick again, and igniting those rogue cells.
The boyfriend-fiancé has a tendency to be as cool as a cucumber at times – he has his wonderfulness and also his shortcomings like any other human being. Like me he can be as stubborn as a mule. To my disappointment we both lack humour and a way to diffuse the situation. I should have been able to laugh and love more after being declared cancer-free, I thought. What’s wrong with me? Why did I go from being positive, optimistic and inspired to such a grouch and grinch at times? Why is gratitude so easily forgotten?
And then I remembered what a cancer survivor in Hong Kong once told me. We couldn’t change others – their emotions, their reactions and perceptions of us, but we could change the way we responded. It was challenging but liberating.
In the act of salvaging thankfulness I snagged a book entitled Gratitude: A Way of Life by Louise Hay. It has a colourful cover, big fonts and simple but solid affirmations such as “Remember You Cannot Be Grateful and Unhappy at the Same Time” that ignite a fast smile. I say this several times and then turn to the boyfriend-fiancé again and thank him for his good deed of the day of helping me fix my computer. There are so romantic words exchanged, no flowers or accolades such as “I’m so lucky to have you,” but there are acts of kindness from him and others.
Another gem from the Louise Hay book is “the more grateful you are the more goodies you get.” I fixate on this phrase with all of my heart and soul, and pray that I will never forgot how lucky I am, even with all of the kinks and imperfections and mysteries of life and interactions.