by Patricia Bateson
The date October 8, 2003, will be etched in my heart forever, for it was this glorious day that my life would be transformed in miraculous ways. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2003, and I experienced shock, anger, and fear, like many newly diagnosed cancer survivors. Once I grappled with these emotions, I attempted to take control of my life, or at least I thought I did. My goal was to complete my treatments as soon as possible so I could return to my career.
You see, I was an oncology nurse. I was accustomed to supporting others, and I was not enjoying this role reversal one bit. But life does not always go as planned, for shortly after diagnosis I developed severe abdominal pain. After a myriad of tests, nothing was conclusive; however, my symptoms did not abate. I was unable to return to work, which added to my frustration.
I put out to the universe an “SOS.”
This pattern continued for several months, and I became greatly fatigued and experienced weight loss and depression. The pain would awaken me every night, and my thoughts would ramble off to foreign places I did not care to be. I felt alone and wondered if I would ever get out of this dark place.
Alas, on October 8, 2003, my transformation began. For on this magnificent day, I finally spoke my truth. I put out to the universe an “SOS.” It was a cry for help that I desperately needed. I finally surrendered to a higher power by asking God to ease my burden as I could no longer handle it alone. Suddenly, I felt a tremendous sense of relief. For the first time since my diagnosis, I had acknowledged my deepest feelings and fears to others. They were now coming to assist me, for it was my turn to be comforted.
I now understand that nothing in life is a coincidence and that everything happens for a reason. My cancer diagnosis was a wake-up call that taught me many invaluable lessons.
The first lesson I learned is that I was never alone. I was surrounded by loving, compassionate people, but I needed to ask for guidance. I was accustomed to being the giver, but it was now my turn to be on the receiving end. It has filled my heart with much gratitude.
Surrendering to a higher power through prayer, trust, and faith allowed me to release my pain and be free. Believing in myself and acknowledging my inner strength, courage, and resiliency has been enlightening. I realize that my body had been weakened by a barrage of tests, surgeries, and other elements, including fear, and it was letting me know I was out of balance. I was being given the opportunity to reclaim my life and heal my mind, body, and spirit.
This has truly been a remarkable experience, and to now be able to share my story with other survivors is a blessing. For when we share our challenges and triumphs, not only do we give hope, but we also help one another heal. I can think of no greater gift than that.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Patricia Bateson is an oncology nurse at Commonwealth Oncology/Hematology in Lawrence, MA.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2008.