My story begins in June 2008. On a lovely Saturday afternoon, while celebrating my young son's fifth birthday, I noticed that there was a big lump in my left breast.
At this point, I prefer not to further elaborate on the medical situation I was thrown into due to that lump but rather share with you what it has done to my life and how I grew stronger, happier and a better human being as a result.
However, I do wish to let you know that I went through a very difficult time while receiving chemo and radiotherapy treatments and having a radical surgery to remove both my breasts and my ovaries (since I carry the BRCA1 gene).
From the first moment I was told that I had cancer I did not, not even once, ask myself – "why did it happen to me". It was as if something deep inside of me knew that this is a sign. Not a catastrophe, not a death sentence, but a sign. And if I would be sensitive enough, patient enough and put my trust in the things that are bigger than me – I might understand what this sign came to show me.
Before I was diagnosed, I was the most realistic person there is. I worked as a commercial lawyer in a big law firm, I cared about my status, the money in the bank and what other people said and thought of me. I always believed that if I worked hard enough – I would succeed. That it depends only on me and me alone! I did not believe in god nor did I believe in the powers of the universe. My motto was – If I'm not for myself, who is for me?
Consequently, I considered myself a "wonder woman" who could do everything by herself without asking for help. I managed to develop a career, to get married, have two children, keep the house organized and tidy and be the perfect creature I thought I was expected by everyone to be.
However, by running my life this way, I completely ignored my heart and my inner longing. Somewhere along the way I forgot to listen to those inner voices of mine which I, so successfully, managed to cover up and hush by wrapping them with layers and layers of conditions, restrictions and false self beliefs. I found myself running my life on automatic pilot mode. Doing whatever needs to be done without really being in the moment.
I imagined life as a long, long "to do" list while my job was to erase as many items on the list as I could. I never stopped for a moment to ask myself questions such as – do I really want to do this thing? or if not – why am I doing it anyway? What do I feel while doing these things? Why can't I ask for help in doing these things? Do I feel I have control of my life or does the "to do" list control me?
Needless to say that even though I had everything a person might wish for in life, I wasn't feeling too happy or too satisfied. I always felt as if there was something else that I could do or a different way to do things.
I guess this experience was the main reason for the surprising attitude I adopted from the first moment I discovered the cancer. I knew and felt that the disease was a sign. A wake-up call. An opportunity for me to examine the road I had already traveled, in order to decide which road I wanted to take in the future and how I would like to move with it.
The first emotion that arose in me, while trying to digest the news, was gratefulness for being alive. Only then did it occur to me that life is truly a present. All the things that I have taken for granted in the past suddenly appeared to be new presents. I found myself being thankful for everything I had, for everything I could do and for the beauty, opulence and support that surrounded me.
Out of the gratefulness, an amazingly strong will grew inside of me, to win the battle of healing my body and my soul. Even though I was receiving very strong chemo treatments, I dramatically changed my nutrition, focusing on eating healthy food while avoiding eating the garbage I used to eat. A rewarding side effect of the nutrition change was that I lost 66 pounds (!!!).
I remember looking at myself in the mirror the day after the bilateral mastectomy, thinking to myself that I look great even with the absence of my breasts. In addition, I started exercising and working out. In the beginning, it took some time to get into shape mentally and physically, but as time passed, I found myself walking 5-6 miles, a few times a week.
The change I was going through did not end in a new diet. It was much more comprehensive and fundamental. I realized that no matter how smart, talented, good and successful I am, there are things that are out of my control.
That was the most difficult thing for me to accept - that I can not control everything. Finding the balance between 'doing' and 'letting go' was the hardest thing to do for the control freak of a woman that I used to be. It is a scary place to be, on insecure ground. Not knowing what the future holds for me or whether or not the things I plan will be realized.
On a very conscious level I decided to educate myself and so I read dozens of books, articles and websites which dealt with this terrible disease. All of them taught me that if I want to survive the cancer and live a long and satisfying life, I need not only to heal my body but to heal my soul as well.
But what does it mean to heal one's soul? This question was the fuel that enabled my engine to run. I decided, for the first time in my life, to let my inner feelings and thoughts lead me. That started an amazing and very exciting journey for me, that still goes on and I hope will never stop. On a daily basis, I ask myself what does my heart tell me to do. And then I try to do it. It takes a lot of courage and faith but mostly – it requires me to love myself.
This journey led me to India (3 weeks in a meditation resort), to participate in workshops, to meet new friends, to continue being a lawyer but in a different state of mind, to raise my kids differently, to be able to ask for help, to speak about the things that bother me no matter how it may sound or what other people may think of me. To be true to myself.
As absurd as it may sound – in many aspects, I feel better today than I was feeling before the cancer. Or as people usually say and I embrace in my heart – every cloud has a silver lining.
Sharon lives in Israel. She found SHARE's web site and wanted to share her story. Please feel free to contact her directly.