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October 10, 2019

The First Day of The Rest of My Life {Chapter 1}

*Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a series—lucky you. Head to the author’s profile to continue reading.


I sat in the cold doctor’s office looking around the room.  Anxious for the doctor to enter. It felt like hours, each time looking up at the clock, only a minute had passed.  

The offensive fluorescent lights, bright white walls, and bleak tone made the wait lag on forever. Why don’t they have soft warm lighting, calming music…maybe a plant?  The posters on the wall warned of STDs.  I wished that was all I had to be worried about in this visit.  

The stark ambiance foreshadowing the ominous news.  I sat back in the standard carpet covered chair, uniform to all health clinics.  I waited 44 minutes for the doctor to enter.  She came in with an assistant and asked if I minded him being present to take notes.  That was the moment I knew I had cancer.  

This was the first time I’d met this doctor, I’d been tossed around the clinic, meeting a new person each time.  She sat down in front of me and put her hand on my knee, she looked me straight in the face and gave me the personal connection I hadn’t experienced during the many scans and office visits leading up.  

“You have triple negative breast cancer.”  She said.

She started saying a bunch of words, not one registering.  Swearing and trying to act hip, like a friend. Attempting to be relatable.  I heard the medical assistant typing in the background, sealing my fate in writing.  

I drifted into a fuzzy daze.  It felt surreal. I sat there numb staring at my hands while my eyes filled with tears.  I put my finger to the inside of the palm of my hand to test if I was dreaming.  If I was dreaming, my finger would go through the palm. It stopped. I was awake.  I tried not to cry, I didn’t want to prolong the meeting. I just wanted to get out of that fluorescent lifeless box.  I wanted to run and hide, like I did every time life got rough. Escape the pain and retreat into the woods. But there was no place to go, wherever I went this would follow me, this was me.  

I walked out of the doctor’s office into the grey gloomy day.  It fit the grave circumstance. I was in shock, how is this possible?  I’m so young. I was the healthiest person I knew. I worried what the diagnosis meant for my image.  I was a Wellness Chef, promoting healthy living, cooking for clients that were healing themselves of disease.  I was leading retreats teaching people how to eat clean. I had been pursuing a life of healing, focusing on food as medicine, energy work, and listening to the body.  I felt I had been doing all the tools to prevent cancer – was it all bullshit? My entire career, my passions, my interests were all thrown out the window by six simple words.  Skeptics of my lifestyle could now prove spending the extra dollar on organic was in fact not worth it.  

I didn’t want to tell anyone, I was ashamed.  I felt I didn’t have anyone to call. That whoever I called, I would have to console.  I was scared, how their fear would affect their lives, how their fear would affect my life.  For my mother who had been present during the 2 month process of the unknown lump. What the news would do to such a selfless woman that would do anything for me. 

I thought back to sitting at my kitchen table talking to my friend Allison a few weeks prior.  The mystery of the unknown lump had been on the forefront of my mind for those 2 months. I said to her that I wished it was cancer so I would have the opportunity to pave the path for others.  To practice what I was preaching. In some way there was something in me that wanted to be the sacrificial lamb. Hearing the confirmation was a little more jarring. The inspirational stories sound exciting told through a podcast by an unknown voice on the other side.  To set into the reality that this was now my life was less appealing. I felt like an idiot, regretting thinking for one moment that I had any clue how to heal myself of cancer.  

Subconsciously I had been preparing for this diagnosis for years.  I had become fascinated with alternative ways to heal the body; mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I knew every time I faced a challenge in my life I had come out stronger. I don’t know where that strength inside of me came from, but I’ve always had the ability to conjure up resilience in tough times.  I knew it would change my life forever. I could never go back to the way life was before. My carefree, simple life was over. I was prepared to dedicate my life to healing. But I was scared. I was so fucking terrified to be sick.  To be weak. To be wrong.  

I sat in my car contemplating what to do next, still frozen from the news.  I closed my eyes and started counting my breaths, visualizing them in a box to ground myself.  I knew my mom was waiting for my call. I was conjuring up the courage to dial the phone. I wished I hadn’t told her about the appointment today.  I wanted another day to get my thoughts together. I was more afraid to call her than I was of the cancer. She had always been so emotional, she loves more than anyone I have ever met.  She embodies unconditional love. She would be devastated. What I was going to ask of her was going to require so much solidity. I didn’t know if she was capable.  

I prefaced the news with “Please don’t say sorry or feel sorry for me. View me in the healthiest, strongest place you can imagine.  Everyone involved has to believe this. This is the most important piece.” 

I tried to sound optimistic for her, “It’s cancer.”  

I heard her stifling the tears. She was speechless but I could feel her pain on the other end.  

“I’m not doing Chemo.” I said.  

She knew I wouldn’t do chemo, but she didn’t fully understand my lifestyle.  She wanted to support me, she would do anything to be as close to me and the situation as possible.  But she wanted the security of knowing I would take reasonable measures to stay alive. I know she wanted to go into the dark but her love gave her power.  She wanted to get on a plane and come hug me. I told her to wait until I figure out a plan.  

She said, “OK, how can I help?”  

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