“This can’t be happening to me!” Yes, bad things do happen to good people. The 20 essential life lessons in It’s Just Hair will give you the strength and perspective to meet these challenges. Read them all at once, read them one at a time. Read them in moments of solitude, read them out loud with others. Read them as a battle cry, read them in a quiet whisper. These powerful lessons, delivered with honesty, courage and brilliant humor, are resources you or a loved one will reference time and again.
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Enjoy this excerpt!
Diseases can be our spiritual flat tires – disruptions in our lives that seem to be disasters at the time but end by redirecting our lives in a meaningful way.
– Bernie S. Siegel
I can’t tell you how other people react when they’re told they have cancer. I can only tell you how I reacted. I became two people: the me who had breast cancer, and the me who watched the me who had breast cancer. The Cancer Me dutifully reported for dozens of doctors’ appointments, scans and tests. The Watcher Me would observe the events and ask the Cancer Me questions, taking careful notes. The result is the book you are now holding.
By design, we are never given much preparation for things as life-altering as a diagnosis of cancer. If we knew in advance how badly we would feel about it, we’d spend all of our healthy days worrying about what dire diagnoses might be hanging in our futures. That doesn’t even take into consideration all of the other dark possibilities lurking: car accidents, job loss, divorce. It’s just too awful to imagine. So we don’t.
In 2011, my focus was on my eldest son, stationed in England with his wife and their two children. He was about to be deployed to the war in Afghanistan, and to send him off properly, my younger son and his sweetheart, and my husband and I had planned a grand get-together at their home in Britain. My cancer diagnosis came six weeks before the trip. Fate has a funny way of derailing plans, doesn’t it?
I hold three beliefs, however, that I would not allow to be derailed. First, the Cancer Me would never define who I was as a person. She was only going to be a tiny part of who I am, similar to a few grains of sand on a wide expanse of beach. Secondly, everything happens for a reason, even bad things. The tricky part is figuring out the message. Finally, we must all serve humanity in some way. The size of that service is not important and it’s really cool if our adversity can become a stepping stone for someone else.
With those beliefs in mind, I examined my journey for ways it had changed my life for the better and in so doing, I realized that every step I had taken was a metaphor for the steps we all take in life. If I removed the words cancer and all others associated with it, the lessons I learned would fit any of life’s challenges.
Was this journey difficult? You bet. Do others have it worse? You bet. Has this journey changed me? You bet.
My husband told me soon after my diagnosis that I was going to have the unique opportunity to live out in real life the last scene from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, in the midst of feeling as though he’s worthless, realizes how much impact he’s had on the lives of others. And they, in turn, come to his aide when he needs them the most.
The love and prayers of my family and friends helped me learn these lessons. My duty now is to pay it forward; to share the feelings of the Cancer Me and the meandering notes of the Watcher Me with others, in the hope that they might see through the darkness, and just as George Bailey did, realize that their lives can be pretty wonderful too.