As I sit in the grand lobby of the Himalayan Hotel of Kathmandu, Nepal, I am already reduced to tears. The air is hot and sticky and I can hear the Nepalese staff singing as they prepare what I can only imagine to be yet another delicious meal. It is interesting to hear them speak in their native tongue as I try to guess what they are saying and what their life story might be.
I have been asked to share my cancer story and journey with all of you. I start this story the same way every time…2014 was a particularly rough year for me. I was a 41 year old mother of 3, a full time nurse and I was incredibly focused on just getting through the day. I was so focused on “doing” all the time that I forgot how to just “be.” So, I declared 2014 to be the year of the blessings. I was going to count my blessings, learn to accept my blessings and most importantly learn to be a blessing. And then it came, the diagnosis, those dreadful words, “You have cancer.” I had stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast. By the time I had my first surgery, the cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes. Three surgeries, 16 rounds of chemotherapy that lasted a total of almost 6 months, one hospitalization, 2 blood transfusions and more medicine and injections than I have had in my entire life combined…the year of the blessings. How could any blessings come out of all of that? I was posed this question the other day as I celebrated the one year anniversary of the day that the cancer was removed from my body. “Did any good come out of your cancer?” I didn’t hesitate when I replied, “only good.”
So what now? I chose to declare this year the year of celebrations. I celebrate everything, my last day of chemo, the day I was declared cancer free. I celebrate every day that I am given the strength to get out of bed. I treat each day, the good and the bad, as a gift. Because after all, how can we truly celebrate the good without the bad?
The lights are on now and there are now more people starting to move around the lobby. “Namaste, “ they bow their heads and walk past me. I respect the divine being in you. The town is starting to wake up. It is 6 am in the morning here and you are all preparing to for Friday night football, a dinner with friends or maybe just a quiet dinner at home. It is crazy to think that I left my house at 2pm on Wednesday to make this incredible journey across the world as I continue to celebrate my survivorship and explore what that means to me. Honestly, I can’t think of a better place to be.
I came to this country already overwhelmed with the blessings I had received, already grateful for the life I had been given. I came to this country to bring hope and love to the people of Nepal, but instead I am humbled by the lessons of survivorship that I have already learned.
After 26 hours of travel we have arrived in this poverty stricken country that just a few short months ago suffered a devastating earth quake. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives, and as we explore their incredible city the damage is so very present. Piles of rubble, broken bricks and debris now sit where the sacred temples once stood proudly, but this has not stopped the strong resilient people of Nepal. Their tiny shops are still open. The men and women swarm to us tourists eager to sell us their trinkets. They have lost everything and yet they open their eyes everyday and are greatful to be alive.
I had the privilege yesterday of sitting in a back room of a tiny shop to look at paintings done by Tibetan monks as we sought refuge from the rain. It was such a surreal but incredible moment for as the groupI was with sat on the floor and listened to the Nepalese shop owners spook of Buddha and the Hindu religions. To my right were three incredible survivors who already amaze and inspire me and to my left were 2 beautiful caretakers. One of the caretakers was Dr. Deming, the very man who brought me along on this incredible journey. The man who taught me many months ago, that if you can take one more step, you can climb a mountain. Such a simple concept that has given the courage and strength to continue on my journey, the journey of survivorship.
That is the beauty of Above and Beyond Cancer. The sole purpose of this organization is to elevate the lives of those touched by cancer, wherever they may be. Help me as I continue to celebrate by donating to this amazing group so that others can continue to be blessed.