Upon diagnosis, my immediate thought was, who else my age is in a similar position? I’ve never known anyone with the C-word, much less a person this young.
When I asked myself this question, my mind immediately referred to the practice of yoga, as it often does in some way or another. Specially, I was taken back to 2011 when I participated in a six-month immersion at my local yoga studio. Among the countless benefits, physical and emotional, I recalled the illuminating experience of meeting a very young woman in the group who shared with me that she had cancer.
When I learned about my cancer, I felt an immediate need to bond with others fighting this battle…an urgency to unravel the feeling of being an outlier. I had developed a genetic disease known to few people in the world, and suddenly the feeling of being an outsider hit me like a ton of bricks. While most of my friends were off getting married and having children, living seemingly “perfect” lives, I was single, recently unemployed, and unfit to attend class. Suddenly, I felt like I should buy a one-way ticket to Pluto.
These milestones usually occur in early adulthood. So, I almost immediately reached out to the woman from my yoga immersion who is close to me in age and who left such a big impression on me years ago. She was the first person to come to mind, however short our time was together.
In her initial response, following the obvious shock and sadness, she suggested some uplifting reading, including Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor. This is a guidebook written by a woman diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancer at thirty-one (sound familiar?) in 2003. Though her cancer is far less aggressive than ROS1 (doctors have told her she could potentially never require treatment), she used this situation as a vehicle to “feel good” and “love harder”, as well as to inspire others along the way.
On page fifteen, Kris asks you to write down your biggest fears. For me, this was a long list of variations of “I’ll never have the chance to…”. You are then instructed to take that list and burn it. I took this process quite literally, so on a dewy morning in London, with my family by my side, we set fire to those fears. My nieces, Olive and Esme, assured their demise by levelling them into the moist dirt. Gone.
Of course, this is not to say that I am done crying about my shitty luck or contemplating what the future holds. Far from it. Most days I cry. This was merely a demonstration of my commitment to an engaged and honest future, regardless of what this disease implies about a “long” life.
Try it out. Grab a sheet of paper and jot down your personal fears. It’s the holiday season, so chances are high there will be a working fireplace nearby to burn them.You don’t have to have a terminal disease to give meaning to your life. In the words of my sister, “we’re all terminal!”.