I am a cancer survivor (multiple myeloma, a blood cancer). I was diagnosed in January 2012 and, as part of my treatment, had two auto stem cell transplants. These are not fun or simple procedures, I assure you. They involve too much chemo, hair loss, and, well, you get the picture.
I got into remission for three years but it came back. Managed by a plethora of drugs over the past year, my doctors have determined that it is time for another stem cell transplant to bring my numbers back down. I’m ok with it. I’m doing well, I’m confident and know that I will beat this again. Myeloma is manageable, thank goodness, but it’s a long road of treatments and more.
I decided long ago that my approach to life is survivorship, warrior-status all the way. When I was first diagnosed with myeloma, I had a decision to make:
1) let this devastating news defeat me by staying with my abusive husband, allow myself to continue being bullied by him, and expose my children to a really unhealthy home environment surrounded by alcoholism;
2) beat it, kick, it, survive it, and craft a new life. I chose to do something Big, Bold and NEW. To find, purpose, love, passion, and joy.
And I’ve worked really hard in doing just that. Since my initial diagnosis, I’ve done some really cool stuff:
I got a divorce, found new love, remarried, helped launch www.myelomacrowd.org (a fabulous site for myeloma survivors and we are working on funding curative clinical trials), traveled to Europe twice, South America once, gone on a few cruises and road trips and so much more.
Life is better, cancer aside, than it ever was before.
So I live as big as I possibly can. In addition to my entering into another transplant, my 48th birthday is coming up on Friday. Last year, I went paragliding to celebrate. This year, it was time to take it up a notch.
In addition to wanting to do something GRAND as I headed into “u-fun” treatment, I wanted to celebrate another year of life on this planet. It was time to cross something off of my Bucket List. I chose to go skydiving.
I got permission from my doctor prior to setting up my skydiving adventure. They loved my optimism, bravery, and zest for life. Go for it, he said. And so I did.
The day before checking into the hospital, I drove 90-minutes away, checked in, suited up, found my instructor, and up we went, in a tiny airplane with another set of divers.
“Have you done this before?” one guy asked me.
“Nope!” I answered. “You?”
“Yes, this is my second time up. I’m scared. Are you?” he asked.
I thought about it for a moment. Nope, I wasn’t scared at all. Excited. Ready to go. If the Grim Reaper is ready for me, take me now, I thought.
My instructor asked if I wanted to jump first. I did. He opened the door of the plane and said, “Ok, go whenever you’re ready. Grab anywhere but the plane. Go!”
And without hesitating, we were off. Floating, free fall. Beautiful, stunning mountains in the background, the ground racing towards us. And then silence.
The parachute was up and we were floating. And you know what? For that time, I didn’t think about chemo or cancer or to do lists or… anything. I was in The Moment. Shear joy. Concentrating on breathing and laughing and, was that screaming in the background me? You can watch my short jump video for all the fun details:
Would I recommend this? Heck yes. Or at least find something you want to do. Life outside your comfort zone. Do something Big and Unexpected and Bold. Because we divorced moms, we who struggle with life, we who must sometimes make Big Hard Decisions deserve it. To find joy and laughter in each one of us. No matter how “hard” life can be, there are places to find fun, solace, joy and purpose.
We can decide to let life defeat us. Or we can decide to pull ourselves up whenever we can and find time for ourselves. To celebrate big achievements or just learn to laugh again. And it is far better than sitting in a corner and crying, trust me.
Today I write this column from my hospital room. It isn’t that bad, I suppose. I have a beautiful view of the mountains. It is overcast and cold and I’m watching Dr. Phil. I’m on my laptop and I’m cozy and feeling ok.
My husband visits me every day. This is far different than when I was first diagnosed and was sitting in a hospital room, fending off horrific texts from my then-drunk husband calling me a drama queen and lazy, being cared for by my parents, and wondering why I wasn’t worthy to have my husband there with me holding my hand like the other patients I saw at infusion.
Today, I have that. I have children who are three years older and better able to handle the fear of a sometimes sick mom.
They are more confident and happy and secure. My parents are still my rock stars, there for me every step of the way. I am surrounded by love, hope and optimism. I found that tiny silver lining even through some of life’s greatest challenges. I refuse to be defeated. My motto? Go.Fight.WIN. I intend to do just that.
And now I think I’ll watch my skydiving video again. It was so fun!