I always try to look for and count my blessings. 2016 gave me the rare opportunity and challenge to find the blessing in a bone tumor. From May to September, I knew I had a bone tumor, but did not know, if the tumor was benign or malignant. if I had bone cancer. I didn’t know if I would live days, weeks, months or a year or two. I also did not know what the quality of my life would be. I have found myself in, and put myself in some scary situations in my lifetime. However, the scariest of my entire life has been to confront myself, and my own mortality. The thing about life, is that we only remember being alive, so we can become disillusioned to the fact that we are mortal, and will sometime cease to be alive. We forget or take for granted that we are building a legacy that will one day, be all that is left of us. We take for granted that we may not have another chance to prove that we love, that we have potential, we are a living body of works, and that we may not have the chance to prove who we really are or become who we really want to become. Today, this day, is the only thing we have, and the only thing that matters.
This year from April through November, I was unable to “do” to “become” anything, and I had to come to terms with, who I have been, and what I have accomplished may be all that I am or ever will be. Without being able to “do” I had nothing except time to analyze my entire life and body of works. This is a scary and enlightening undertaking. In this time, I realized I was not satisfied with my life. I hadn’t been a very good granddaughter, a very good daughter, a very good sister, a very good aunt, a very good friend, or even a very good person, in quite some time. I had not been a very bad person, but I hadn’t been necessarily a very good person, by my standards, in quite some time. I wished, and prayed for just a little more time, to be better. I needed just a little more time to leave behind me a legacy of being good, really good, to the people who loved me, and that I loved dearly, so that long after my physical body leaves this world, they would have enough goodness from me to last them the rest of their lives without me here to remind them that I loved them.
For the last four or maybe even five years, I have been so caught up in myself and my losses, I haven’t been able to see or maintain any of my relationships. Some may call it depression, but I would describe it as not really being awake, but not really being asleep; not really being dead, but not really being alive. I was surviving, but not really living. I was in a perpetual state of autopilot. I decided somewhere along the way that I wasn’t worthy of controlling or guiding my life, and I would just see how it turned out letting the decisions of others guiding my life. The problem with that is that good people aren’t interested in manipulating the lives of others, so you are left with the lowest common denominator of the human genome molding your life. They aren’t interested in nurturing the relationships of the people you love, your accomplishments, or your commitments, and most of the time, when things aren’t nurtured, they cease to exist, they die. This happened in my life. In the darkness, I decided everything and everyone good that I loved was gone, so why not pour kerosene on everything left and watch it burn! I wanted nothing and I wanted to be nothing. I wanted to die. The universe heard me. Everything I loved, and everyone I loved, fell away one by one. Things were lost, things were stolen, and things left me. I never died, but I ceased to be alive.
In September, I found out that the tumor was benign. Some of the sweetest words you may ever have the privilege to hear in your life are “You do not have cancer”. I did have an infection that had liquefied and was eating my tibia. My entire tibia and part of my fibula were infected. The infection caused my fever to spike often to 104 degrees. I hallucinated, felt like I was freezing and although my teeth would chatter, I was sweating profusely. Even the extremely strong antibiotics made me sick. I couldn’t tell where the infection stopped, and the side effects began. I was so sickly that holding my head up was difficult. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to move. It hurt to be still. I was in too much pain to think about much else, but much like fire purifies, so do certain types of pain. Much like clay is baptized by the fire of the kiln and comes out vitrified, certain extreme pain can baptize a person’s mind and soul leaving them better, stronger.
It wasn’t until I actually had to fight for my life, that I realized that it had value, and that I wanted it. That there were still things, ideas, accomplishments, and most of all people that were worth fighting for (people that I had left behind in a world I had deemed unfit to live in myself, I had left the people I loved all alone in that very same world to fend for themselves without my love)! It wasn’t until I had to fight for the privilege to live, that I realized it was in fact a privilege. It wasn’t until I had to fight for the privilege to walk, that I realized the ability to walk is a privilege. It wasn’t until I lost the privilege to call the people I loved, who loved me, that I realized, that the love we share is in fact a privilege. We are granted so many privileges in our life, that we take for granted just how wonderful each of these privileges are to us! In fighting for my life, I realized that I am a wonderful miracle that needs to be shared with the world, and so are you. I realized that my life had lost meaning because I had stopped living it! I realized that food no longer had flavor because I had stopped tasting it! I realized that sunsets no longer looked beautiful, because I had stopped seeing them! That music no longer moved my soul because I had stopped hearing the beat! That things no longer had value because I had stopped valuing them. Now, I am proactive in my life, in my recovery, and as proactive in the lives of the people I love as they will let me be. I know that it time for them to trust me again. I hurt them by just leaving, by just shutting down. It hurt them to watch me hurt, and most of all to hurt myself. It will take time, and lots of love to heal the brokenness I have created in my life, in every compartment of my life there is brokenness. All I can do now is fill the brokenness with pure gold, thus leaving everything better and more beautiful than it ever was before! The world needs me, and I need the world! The world is waiting for each and every one of us to leave our mark. Whether we choose to leave it better or worse is up to us! There is no in between, and if you are not sure where you stand, then you are not doing enough to leave it better.
For months, I claimed that 2016 was the worst year of my life. I could see no blessings, and nothing positive about 2016. I read somewhere that the light can only shine through the broken cracks of your soul, so I prayed all year for the light to shine through. It finally did, but not in the way I thought it would. Life is funny like that. It wasn’t until I was well that I could really comprehend how sick I had been. Far before I was blessed enough to develop a bone tumor, I had been very sick, a sickness of the soul. Because I was blessed enough to have a bone tumor, I am well again! So now when people ask me why I am limping (I still limp, as the hole in my tibia is still healing), I tell them because I had the opportunity to have a bone tumor this year! Because I had the opportunity to fight for my life, and I won!!
Be Blessed Friends, and thank you for reading
Sarah Gannon. Survivor!!