She now understands that the doubting started with the phone call from her doctor some nine years ago.
The tumor was indeed malignant.
She had breast cancer.
They had caught it early.
She was probably going to be okay.
The first six months were full of doctor visits, rounds of chemo and radiation, and she fought. Fought hard, coming out the other end stronger. Amazing herself at times with her strength, but also aware that she had not cried, or felt much sorrow throughout the ordeal. What she did feel was fear, anger and betrayal.
She had always taken her heath seriously. Friends teased her about her “organic ways”, no jarred baby food in her home when her boys were babies. She spent hours in her big organic garden; ground her own wheat made all their bread.
It was not fair.
This was not supposed to happen.
She found herself doubting herself. Doubting the choices she had made and felt confused. She had been so animate and so sure she was right and now it seemed to have done no good.
She felt as if the very soul of her being had turned on her, and she no longer trusted her passions, her gut feelings, her body, nor her chosen life style. The woman she had been was all wrong and so she tried hard to get rid of her, or at least ignore her. Soon bits and pieces of the strong, passionate woman she had been, started to fade. She had a new normal, suddenly white sugar was back in the house, along with ice cream with ingredients she could not pronounce.
Time went by and at her five-year mark her doctor told her he was releasing her to treat patients who had cancer; this was great news, but she hated to leave the security of him. Now she was on her own, and every ache and pain was cause for worry. But that was not all, another horrifying journey had started; not her journey but that of her oldest son.
It was dark.
It was scary.
It was life threatening.
People told her it was not her life, that she needed protect herself; her counselor telling her over and over it was not her fault, but the new her didn’t cry or feel sorrow, she was pissed.
She felt cheated all over again.
She had been a good mother, homeschooling their three boys, allowing them a childhood full of wonder and learning. She and her husband had a strong marriage and had taught their boys honesty and good morals, taught them to be kind and allowed them to follow their passions. And here she was; everything she fought so strongly for, felt so passionate about, all for not. She had done things wrong again.
It seemed that her whole life was somewhat of a joke. She didn’t know who she was any longer; she lost her passion, her drive, and found herself on autopilot. Pretty soon days turned into weeks and weeks into months and then years, and she was stuck. She knew she had to do something or she would just shrivel up inside and become a bitter old woman.
And then it happened. One day, while sitting at her desk at school, watching the rain fall outside her window she knew she had to make some changes or she was going to be gone. It was a bit of an epiphany really and she knew exactly what needed to be done for her to start to feel alive again. She needed to feel something, even if it was scary and uncomfortable, she needed to take chances again and start living again. She needed to put herself first, and not worry about how it might affect others.
And she did. Over the course of the next year she did things, which not only surprised her, but those around her. She quite her teaching job, spent three weeks in Europe, (the eleven hour plane trip, which so scared her, had always stopped her before), moved to be with her husband full time, picked up her camera and started a blog.
She started writing about her fears, her passions, her questions and misgivings. Trying to sort it all out and make sense of it all. She put herself out there for everyone to see almost everyday and it scared her but also made her feel alive. She started taking online photo classes, and in one learned to turn the lens around on herself, capturing bits and pieces of her for proof; proof that she was here and that she was enough.
The whole thing scared her right back into life and she started living again; started crying and laughing and accepting herself. Finally understanding the young woman didn’t do anything wrong, understanding that she did the best she could, followed her gut, and her passions and that she was okay; in fact, she was more than okay, she was enough. Enough and beautiful and strong and she now had the proof.
Cathy Sly is a retired teacher who bounces between Western Washington, where she and her husband own the home they raised their three sons in, and Eastern Washington, where he is currently working as a nuclear safety engineer. She doesn’t go anywhere now without her camera, captureing her everyday moments, no matter how big or small. She also turnes the camera around almost daily on herself to prove she is here and living. You can read her blog at: http://mycornerthroughmylens.blogspot.com/ where she muses about her thoughts, passions and feelings, sometimes even crying. She also can be found hanging out in Flickr. Her oldest son is in recovery now and has been clean just over six months. She wakes up every day, loving her life and feeling so alive.