Tip #406: Life Is What Happens

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon

Happy New Year.

I know that I said that these Tips would recommence on January 16th. However, something came up. A not so funny thing happened to me on my way to planning my international travels. I was diagnosed with early uterine cancer.

In the space of a few days, my life and my focus were dramatically reframed. So now, instead of getting visas and packing for Jordan and Nigeria, I’m getting medical tests and preparing for surgery.

I’m also learning a lot- about myself, about my family, and about my friends.

First of all, I’ve learned that my body’s defensive response to devastating news is to get so sick that all that I can do is eat, read and sleep. That’s how I spent the holidays. Luckily, the Christmas tree is beautiful and my cats have been happy to keep my lap warm when I sit in my rocking chair to read.

Second, as I take practical steps- to cancel my trip, to plan for work absences, to create a back up strategy if my recovery takes longer than anticipated- I realize that I am operating on automatic pilot. My emotions must be packed away with my passport. The cancer is a reality, the operation is a necessity, and everything else seems to fade in significance.

Third, I am making sure to keep breathing. That sounds funny, I know. But a new friend insists that I keep breathing and focus on healing. Oh, and eat a lot of deep green leafy vegetables. I’m doing very well on two of those three imperatives.

My family has been wonderful. Three of my brothers and one sister-in-law have all offered to leave their busy lives to be with me. My mother has asked about what she can do, since she no longer travels. My cousins have sent love and light, keeping me in their prayers. My daughter has piloted me through the maze of the University of Wisconsin Hospital, getting me to all of the various tests and appointments. My son has given me reassuring hugs.

My friends have also rallied, sending best wishes and offers of help. Even people I have only recently started to work with and get to know have offered to drive me to appointments or to sit and talk over coffee.

There is also a strong and supportive virtual community of Hystersisters who share great advice based on their personal experiences. As a result, I know what to expect, how to plan and where to go when I need answers or moral support. Since it is a worldwide organization, there are loving women awake and available at the touch of a keyboard no matter the time of day or night.

I am so very lucky. Technological advances can make this surgery as minimally invasive as possible. I have a kind and very experienced doctor and medical team. I know that I am in good hands.

At this time when I could feel most alone, instead I am nestled in the warmth of loving wisdom and concern.

I don’t know what is in store for me. I don’t know why this health issue is happening right now. I’m not sure what I am supposed to learn from this. Perhaps that the spirit is incredibly strong and resilient? That love and tenderness surround us? That this lifelong loner is not now, has never really been, and will never be alone.

If we are all angels learning to be human, than this is a most human experience. An MRI on January 13th (a Friday) will reveal the extent of the cancer. Hopefully, we are catching it early before it has had time to spread. Regardless of the MRI findings, my surgery will be on January 26th. My children and my brother will be with me- and my family and friends will be on call.

They tell me that, if all goes well, the surgery will be conducted robotically and I’ll be able to go home the very next day. And if the cancer is localized, that surgery will be all that I need.

That is my hope and my prayer. Now I let go and let God.

Thank you for being part of my journey.

May your learning be sweet.     


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