by Lisa M. Wolfson
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is upon us again, the fifth such October in my own personal survivor timeline. The month always stirs up emotions for me, both as a daughter who lost her mom to the disease and as a survivor myself. Awareness is a year-round concern, but it gets amplified in October as we use the time to build awareness in others. And this year, the significance takes on a whole new aura — November will mark my five-year anniversary of being cancer-free.
I recall all my mother’s struggles and treatments with striking clarity, and her final weeks as if they were yesterday. And I relive my own arduous breast cancer journey over and over in my mind. But I also know that I’ve come a long way — I recognize that breast cancer awareness will always stir my emotions and be my cause, but I know that it no longer defines me as person.
Naturally, the disease overwhelmed me at first, but it later served as a turning point for me, helping to create balance in my life-mind, body, spirit and emotions. Let me be very clear here: I would never have chosen to have breast cancer or any other cancer, but I am grateful for having found the light at the end of the tunnel and the life changes that resulted.
Shortly after treatments commenced, I began working with a health coach to develop better eating habits and the right exercise program for me. I was introduced to The Institute of Integrative Nutrition and later decided to become a certified health coach myself. I started doing Pilates several times a week, which continues to this day. And I finally learned how to meditate, something I had wanted for the longest time. I learned about “walking meditation” and found it to be most effective form of meditation for me. Now I meditate while washing dishes, sitting on the train or just taking a walk.
After years of trying so many modalities, I found Reiki, a gentle yet powerful and non-invasive method of “life force healing.” Reiki resonates so strongly with me that I have become a Reiki Master and now enjoy sharing my knowledge with eager students.
And I traveled on a much-needed spiritual journey to understand and recognize what spirituality truly means to me, as opposed to what I was taught.
I remember reading, right after my diagnosis, a poem called “A Gift.” It’s all about getting breast cancer and I wondered at the time, who in their right mind would consider this a gift.
Yet the words touched me so deeply that I purchased a plaque with the poem on it, and it hangs on a wall in my home to this day, serving as a reminder and a source of comfort.
I guess I felt that if I — as the youngest of four daughters — had to follow in my mother’s footsteps, there must be a reason why, and some good was bound to come from it. And I must say, in these five years, after a lot of pain and tears, I have grown and changed in ways I would have never imagined.
So I share “A Gift” with you as I look forward to next five cancer-free years and the new changes that will undoubtedly ensue.
I was given a gift, wrapped shabbily,
it was non-returnable, non-refundable!
Reluctantly I accepted it.
In it I found courage I never knew existed
and a patience far beyond anything ever experienced.
I was given the ability to trust a stranger with that most dear to me,
and an endurance for the unknown.
I was given unconditional love of family and friends,
always there, never stopping, never faltering.
I was given many prayers from far and wide,
and the warmth of knowing I am truly cared about.
I was given a fond farewell of my modesty and vanity,
and the acceptance and love of an imperfect body.
I was given a strong shoulder to lean on, when that
shoulder had once grown distant,
and laughter and good times, more special than ever before.
I was given many new friends,
wonderful, courageous women I am so very proud to know.
I was given warm sunshine and beautiful green grass,
blue skies, and sparkling city lights.
I was given things to see,
that once before were ignored.
I was given the chance to wake up,
instead of sleepwalking through life.
I was given every glorious day to enjoy,
every month to savor, every year to rejoice.
I was given the gift of life,
I was given breast cancer.
© Copyright by Linda Nielsen
Lisa Wolfson is a Reiki Master and lives in Rockville Centre, NY.