By Nicole Hardy of She Emerges
Several months ago, I had an annual mammogram that changed my life. I started getting mammograms long before my 40s because both my mother and grandma are breast cancer survivors. It’s a routine procedure for me each year, but for the first time, I had a pit in my stomach.
I started thinking, “What if?”
What if they tell me something doesn’t look normal? What if they need to do a biopsy? What if I have breast cancer like my mom and grandma? What if the cancer spread past the point of possible remission?
The odds aren’t in my favor, so WHAT IF?
I remembered the moment I found out my mom had cancer. We were at lunch, and as I began eating my salad, my mom stared at the table with a somber look on her face. I knew something was bothering her, but I never imagined she was about to say, “I have breast cancer.” The loudness in the room suddenly went silent. Her words echoed in my ears. I looked at my mom’s eyes welling up with tears, and that was the very beginning of a long, painful journey.
After meeting with several doctors, my mother had a double mastectomy to remove both her breasts. I remember seeing her pale face after surgery as she shivered under a blanket in the cold hospital recovery room. I remember holding her hand tightly and telling her, “You did so good.” I remember taking her to the hospital again for reconstructive surgery and seeing her afterward, this time feeling very sick. I remember handing her Ginger Ale and a straw, telling her she’d feel better soon. I remember her undergoing chemotherapy, losing her hair, and fighting tears while standing in front of the mirror for the first time. I remember taking her to get a wig that matched the style of her brown locks from before – to gain back some dignity after her body and soul completely changed.
Cancer had taken a hold of her heart. And mine, too.
As I got ready for my mammogram appointment, I tried to talk myself out of the worry consuming my mind: “You’re fine. Calm down.” But I couldn’t stop sweating. I even put on deodorant to combat my nerves, forgetting that wearing it during the procedure was a “No, no.”
My brain was imagining the worst-case scenario. I’d been having pain in my breast, so I requested a diagnostic ultrasound to see through the dense tissue. As I laid on the table with Vaseline on my chest, I thought about how different my life was the last time I had an ultrasound. I was pregnant with my second daughter and overflowing with excitement to finally see my baby growing inside. To see a blessing and listen to the sounds of a heartbeat, knowing I was creating life. I closed my eyes and wondered what was happening to my life this time.
Then I asked myself, “What would I do differently if someone told me right now my life was going to be over?”
I immediately saw my children’s faces. I thought of the places I wanted to take them that I normally think would be too much of a hassle or because “next summer might work better.” I thought of the evenings we would spend together with a lot less frustration and a lot more fun. I thought of my husband and how our relationship has changed throughout the years – focusing on preparing for our future while skipping out on living in the moment. I thought of the cities I wanted to explore, the risks I wanted to take, the dreams I wanted to become, the things I wanted to try, the relationships I wanted to mend, the words I’ve always wanted to say.
I thought about how I continuously tucked away these things for the right moment. When is that moment? What if I’ve waited so long that I never touched it?
The technician came back in the room after meeting with the doctor and said, “You’re good for another year.”
I changed into my clothes, picked up my belongings and walked out the door to my regular day. What would I do then? Would I wait until life was almost over to start living?
Over the past several months I’ve started living in a new way. I finally booked a trip to L.A. to go to a conference I contemplated attending since the beginning of the year. I took a photography class that I looked up online over and over again, but in the past convinced myself I didn’t have time to go. I mended a relationship that I was scared to confront for the fear it wouldn’t go well. I started running in the sprinklers with my children instead of watching them play from the sliding glass door. I stopped saying, “We can do it next time,” and started saying, “Let’s go. Now.”
I felt a fire inside for living.
I wanted other women to light up inside, too. To take hold of life before it passes by. The little things. The big things. The everything. To get rid of the pressure of perfection and Just. Start. Living. Because you have another second, another minute, another day.
To all the women out there: “Let’s do life. Now.”
This post was originally published on She Emerges.
About the Author
Nicole Hardy is a 40ish-year-old mom of two, obsessed with coffee, her children and her hair. After 14 years in Corporate America, she’s ditched her cubicle for her calling, and launched her blog: She Emerges. She’s finding herself, feeding her soul, and baby she’s emerging! Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.