By Susan Keats, Contributor & Seize-the-Day Propagandist
Greetings from my after life.
I’m not dead yet, by the way, but I had a glimpse of my death recently and I realized, upon considering it, that I was completely unprepared to have it arrive so soon. Why is it that sometimes we need a good kick in the teeth every so often to get us to sit up and pay attention?
My kick came in the form of cancer on a routine mammogram. There’s nothing like a good cancer diagnosis to push you into a state of acute awareness. Hello, this is your WAKE UP call!
Suddenly there I was, crying until I couldn’t cry any more, scared like I’d never been scared before. I spent many hours sobbing through such thoughts as, “but I was supposed to live to be 90!” And, “This is the end? I’m finished? How can this be true?” I wondered why, why? I’ve always been healthy. I don’t fit the profile of a person who typically gets a cancer diagnosis. For goodness’ sake, my best friend from college still likes to tell everyone about how I once offered her pea pods as a snack.
What followed the diagnosis was a whirlwind of medical tests, biopsies, assorted painful things, surgery, then the inevitable sickness of chemo and the weariness of radiation therapy. I lost my hair, I gained nearly 20 pounds. But strangely, what emerged from the whole experience once it was finally over was a metamorphosis of sorts. I re-emerged as if I had been living in an alternate world. I saw so many things clearly now. I deserved a really beautiful pair of butterfly wings.
Because I had been so sick, I now understood how wonderful it is to feel well. I had been so complacent before. I had so easily put things off for some later time. Now, because I had to face that I could die, I found the strongest desire to live life, to go, to do, to experience, to see things!
Maybe the thing to appreciate about the whole experience is the metamorphosis: the rising of oneself from the depths of feeling sick and sorry for yourself and unable to move, to the heights of just feeling good again. Just plain ol’ every day good. It’s a metamorphosis of appreciation and surviving, of body and really of self too. It’s cliche and it’s profound.
So what’s your situation? Huh? Waiting for those kids to get older before you take that trip? Feeling like you can’t spend a little money to learn to tap dance, even though you think you might be pretty good at it? Geez, do you need me to grab your shoulders and shake you up? I hate to have to say it, but life might be shorter than you are anticipating. Now is the time my friend. Now.
These days, when I wake up, I focus on how good I feel, how lucky I am to be feeling that way, and it truly makes my heart soar with happiness. I’ve learned so much, and realize that so many good things have emerged from the bad. Life is good. This is my after life. Life AFTER cancer. There’s lots of living to do. Gonna go get myself a pair of tap shoes!