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A Letter to Myself – “Cherish Who You Are”

Dear Leah,

How are you? No, really. How are you? Last year at this time, you were about to turn 47 and feeling on top of the world. You had made some big decisions; decided to sell your business that you had worked so hard to create and sell your house to move in with your boyfriend. This was a new chapter. A conscious decision to simplify your life, to carve out time to enjoy as well as look to the future for that next adventure.

The summer before I was diagnosed. I had know idea what was around the next corner of my life.

The summer before I was diagnosed. I had no idea what was around the next corner of my life.

Then, a few months later came the news that you had Stage III ovarian cancer. Talk about taking on that next adventure. I know, no one plans for a cancer diagnosis. And, what a crazy detour your life has taken. How are you? I can imagine that you sorting through all of the changes you have physically and psychologically endured as you come to understand your new reality, your new life. Scary at times. Sad at times. Hopeful at times. Appreciative all of the time.

I hope that you not only appreciate life but also appreciate you. Not only appreciate, but cherish who you are. Do you realize how far you have come? Here you are last week receiving chemo and off to exercise.

cycle 9 of 22 avastin

cycle 9 of 22 avastin

not gonna let a little chemo stop me

not gonna let a little chemo stop me

Stop for a moment and congratulate yourself for outwitting your demons. You do realize that you were born into this world an anxious soul. It’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault. It just is. Remember this trip to the beach? You were just a little over three years old here and even then no smile on your face. You even look like you are bracing for some unknown threat. It’s as if you knew early on that the world was a scary place. It was better to not let your guard down.

That's Mom with us 3 babies at the beach.

That’s Mom with us 3 babies at the beach.

And, as you grew so did your worry. I’m sure being first-born and feeling that need to be hyper-responsible didn’t help. As well as your Dad’s temper, your parents announcing their getting divorced a week before your 13th birthday, moving and changing schools, moving from a middle-class lifestyle into poverty and watching your mom struggle with alcohol throughout your high school tenure. I know you just wanted to be accepted, to be liked. I know you felt so alone and misunderstood. I know you found solace in being a “good student”and a “good girl”.

Sophomore Year of High School.

Sophomore Year of High School.

Summer after Senior Yr High School with my sister.

Summer after Senior Yr High School with my sister.

And still, the demons chased you. So, you worked harder. Went to college. Graduated the top of your class. Went to graduate school. Went to graduate school again. Yes, I know, you weren’t trying to prove anything to anyone else, except you. Remember when you decided to prove to yourself you were an “athlete”? You took up cycling. You started running. You did your first century. You completed your first marathon.

2003 - start line of the Imogene Pass run. 18 miles from Ouray to Telluride, CO.

2003 – start line of the Imogene Pass run. 18 miles from Ouray to Telluride, CO.

All of these “accomplishments” and your demons still chased you. So, you worked harder. You opened a business. You ran more marathons. You rode more centuries. And, then one day, that day you will never forget, you were told you had cancer. Your world stopped and your demons were staring straight at you. Remember? How awful. Remember when it was dawning on you what lay ahead – that huge surgery followed by intensive chemotherapy – you said, “I don’t think I can do this.” Remember when you woke up from surgery, lying in your hospital room and you called your Mom and told her that maybe you should let nature take its course? Remember when you were getting ready to start chemotherapy, only a few weeks out from surgery and in so much pain, you told you sister that you didn’t want to suffer anymore? Remember when you were four days out from your first cycle of chemotherapy, so terribly sick that you contemplated taking your own life because the thought of enduring five more cycles of this hell seemed unimaginable? Remember, over the course of these past seven months, when it felt like your body was betraying you, you would lay on the bathroom floor saying to yourself over and over again, “I am not my body. I am not my body.” Of course you remember. I know you will never forget these moments.

The thing is Leah, these moments have changed you in ways that you are just beginning to understand. Your demons? Funny – when you stop running, they stop chasing. That’s it, Leah. Stop running. You are still an anxious soul. And, you are so much more than that. You do not have to prove to yourself that you are worthy. Look at you. Look at what you have survived. Just be you. That’s all. That’s enough. Cherish it. All of it.

With all of my love, here’s to you….


#cancer #cherish #lettertoself #liferedefined

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