So often we think about life in terms of befores and afters. On a large scale we talk about life before Columbine, and life after. Life before 911, life after. On July 21, 2008 when I got the news that I had breast cancer, my life became divided into two main chapters, life before cancer and life after.
I had decisions to make and paths to choose. I was lucky to have the support of friends and family. Of course the timing couldn’t have been worse. I know, when is the timing for something like this ever good? Barbara and I were in the midst of writing Teenage as a Second Language, my husband had just started traveling frequently for his job, and in addition to my position running the child and adolescent partial programs at the hospital, I had signed on again at Pace University to teach another semester of graduate level psychology at night. Of course there was also my private practice and job as soccer mom. Boy was I frustrated and angry! I mean I did not have time to do this cancer thing! But, I acclimated. I got used to the idea of minor surgery and then radiation. So much for that! The “minor” surgery resulted in the revelation that radiation would not be enough, I was headed for chemo and more surgery.
So, I made a choice, I let all the anger and frustration fuel me to push forward! I would be damned if I was going to give anything up! I was lucky though, I had a network of wonderful family and friends begging to help me. They all caught on quickly though. You see, it’s no coincidence that my chosen profession is in a helping field. I was used to offering help, not receiving it, not just in my work either. So, they stopped asking me if I needed help and started pushing me to tell them what I needed help with. My next door neighbor and friend, organized a meal drop, my in-laws arrived to watch the kids after every chemo treatment. My own parents, who lived far away came in to take over for several weeks after my surgery. My husband, well he should certainly be sainted! He stepped in and took over the household. Although he was traveling he was able to schedule his trips on my “off” weeks from chemo. My brother an oncologist at Johns Hopkins served as medical liaison. He translated the medical stuff I couldn’t begin to try to understand. In addition he kept in touch with my team of doctors. My immediate family, my extended family, they all stepped up with support and love.
The crisis is now long over and the aftermath has been amazing! The lessons I’ve learned are simple, it is not just about surviving, it’s about living! The world seems brighter and more brilliant. I appreciate my family and friends more than ever before. The journey can be difficult but once you know where you are going you learn to truly enjoy the ride!