Guest Blog by Gretta- “Silver Linings”
I had my head shaved a couple of days ago. I just started a new chemo protocol, and the doctor told me my hair would fall out with this drug. This process has gotten so much easier. The head shaving part, that is. When I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in June of 2013 and started treatment after having surgery, I was told that my hair would most likely fall out then also. I clung to the small hope that I would be in that minuscule percentile of people whose hair does not fall out. I got a short hair cut just in case. And then a week and a half later, it started falling out by the handful. The neat freak side of me won out over my vanity, and I had my head shaved.
At first, I thought I looked like some kind of extraterrestrial from a movie. Between the shaved head, my pale skin, and the port that had been placed in my chest a week earlier, it was startling to look in the mirror for the first few days. Then I got used to it. Then I actually started to appreciate it. The last thing I wanted to deal with after coping with chemo side effects and recovering from major surgery was washing, drying and trying to make my hair look presentable. Showers became a much easier event, and scarves and hats became my favorite accessories. Even my husband, who had always wanted me to grow my hair longer before, loves my shaved head. Go figure.
That’s the weird thing about this whole cancer experience: when you look for the beauty in it, you will find it. Don’t get me wrong; I was devastated to get the diagnosis. And even more devastated, after being given an all clear in December of 2013, to find out that I was diagnosed with a recurrence in November of 2014. Yet despite all of the scary, dark feelings, I choose to see through eyes of gratitude. I’m not even sure that I choose it exactly. It’s just how I have felt. I have felt God’s grace. It’s the only way I can explain it. I am truly not that optimistic a person when left to my own devices. But along the way, I have consciously chosen to look for the silver linings. And this I know for sure: what we put our attention on, gets strengthened.
So I could focus on all of my fears and worries and live in a state of constant anxiety, or I could focus on the other things. The beautiful things. The outpouring of love and prayers and concern from family and friends. The tenderness with which my husband takes care of me. The amazing doctors and hospitals, which are within minutes of our house. The unfolding of the magnolia blossoms outside my window. The opening of my heart to the tremendous amount of love I feel within me and around me. And so many other things that bring me a sense of peace and gratitude.
Now, I am not suggesting to live in a state of blissful denial. Not at all. The realities of the situation have to be faced. But to be consumed by worry and get lost in it doesn’t do me any good. It certainly is not the way I want to spend my life. So I’ve tried to stay present with what is in front of me. If I have a decision to make or a strategy to plan, I do it. If I’m feeling sad, I cry. If I’m scared, I acknowledge it. But when there is nothing to be done or decided, I try my best to stay present rather than get lost in my thoughts of what might be. Some days are harder than others. Some days, no matter how much I try, my mind is like an overactive toddler running straight toward danger. And I just have to keep bringing it back. Back to paying attention to the person in front of me. Back to the task at hand. Back to the beauty that is all around me, if I just choose to look.