I should be working in my classroom, preparing for Monday, but this post keeps circling in my head. I can’t let it go, so it’s time to get it out.
I heard Katy Perry’s new song “Rise” when the Olympics began. It caught my attention, but I didn’t pay much attention to all the lyrics. Then, I heard it on the radio one afternoon as I drove home, and I burst into tears.
The next two weeks have the potentially to be an emotional beatdown. August 18th was the one year anniversary of hearing my OBGYN, Dr. B (who is retiring at the end of August, and I’m devastated. I can’t imagine I’m going to find another OBGYN as caring and amazing as Dr. B) tells me the place I could feel in my left breast needed further testing. Today, August 20th, is the one year anniversary of that further testing and hearing a doctor tell me he could see an area of distortion in my left breast where the mass was and it was a 50/50 shot if the area of distortion was the result of a cancerous tumor or a benign tumor. We all know how that turned out for me. He told me I needed a biopsy. August 25th will be the one year anniversary of the biopsies and hearing a different doctor tell me she was 70% sure the tumor causing the area of distortion would come back as breast cancer. August 27th will be the one year anniversary of hearing those four words: “You have breast cancer.” I’m struggling as I face these dates. I don’t mind admitting it. This is hard. I sit here and wonder, am I disease free? Is it going to come back? Is Tamoxifen and the radiation doing their jobs? Did the surgery get it all?
Then, I heard “Rise,” and the speaker of “Rise” tells my story. The first half of the song is my mindset some days, more days than not. I am trying to thrive. My ending of my story is not written yet, and someone else’s story is not my own. I am my own archetype. I’m not the damsel in distress. I’m not the heroine. I’m not any of those. I’m me, and I’m lucky because I have a family with deep roots with each other and in our communities. Those roots run through me. I am not alone in this, even when I feel alone. There are days, more days than not, where I do not feel “victory is in my veins,” but secretly, deep down, secretly, I hope it is victory which runs through my veins. The one thing I have absolutely refused to do over the last year is negotiate with my desire to survive. I demanded my doctors do everything they could to get me in at Baylor Dallas with Dr. O. I did the most rigorous course of chemo and targeted therapies I could do for HER2+ breast cancer. I did not stay home and wallow too much, but there were days that I couldn’t handle and were hard, but still, I shook them off, eventually. I came to work. I taught my classes. I graded papers. I went to every school event I could go to. I did my job as a mother to the best of my abilities. I went to their school activities. I kept up with everything as much as I could, even when I felt horrible. I refused to let cancer steal my daily life too much. Yes, there were days when cancer and cancer treatment won, but there were more days when I did, even if I didn’t feel that way. I did fight. I still fight. We ALL fight demons everyday. Self doubt. Anxiety. Diseases. Exhaustion. Whatever our demons may be. But, we push though, even when all hope looks to be lost. We still rise. I still rise.
But, there are days, there have been days, there will be days when I can’t fight. I have little faith. I doubt myself and everything about my life. I feel hopeless. It’s too hard. And that is where my better angels, my squad, my friends, coworkers, and family, come in and remind me that I will not doubt, I will not negotiate, I will fight, I will rise again. I’ll be different. Everything may be different, but I can find my way through if I just let them help. They are part of my roots, my better angels. And, as these really hard days approach, they tell me some things that helps: Someone else’s story is not your story. You have an incredible medical team. You’ve done everything you can do. This is out of your hands. We love you. We’re here for you, anytime, anywhere, anything. Here’s dinner. Take it and be quiet. I’m coming to get S and AJ for the afternoon or evening. Can I help you set up your classroom? You wear that pixie cut so well! Are you going to keep your hair that way (I don’t know…maybe. I’m enjoying the faux hawk, though)? How are you doing, and you better tell the truth. I know when you’re lying. I know your tells. Don’t treat me like a stranger. If you need to cry, cry. Here’s my shoulder.
They remind me to rise. They douse the fire at my feet. They tell me I am not out of time yet. I’m still here.
I’m still here.
I would not be here without them. They are my better angels. They are the reason I can rise on days when I want to pull the covers over my head. When I can’t, they can. My better angels prop me up when my faith is shaken and gone. They help me find my steady and my faith again. I rise because they insist I rise.
I know angels exists. I see them everyday in my life. They’re my friends, my family, my coworkers. They’re the reason the last year did not decimate me. It cracked me and it broke me, but with their help, I could put myself back together. Some pieces are missing, some pieces are irrevocably changed and forced into space, some pieces are tattered, but those pieces, they’re there. I’m still here. My story isn’t someone else’s story. We don’t know what my story is. My better angels remind me of that every single day.
So, thanks to them, I rise.