Life is precious. We are told this, over and over, and yet we still all go around driving our cars, caught up on our phones, caring how many ‘likes’ we have and criticizing what we see when we look in the mirror. Sometimes, it takes nearly loosing something to make you truly appreciate it. We spend a day with Michelle; her final day of chemotherapy and her day of triumph. She tells us about the places her cancer took her, the deep dark places it forced her to go, and how in fighting it, she realized she was everything worth fighting for. Below is an extract from her diary.
Cancer Diaries: Naked in a Room (April 2016)
“Last night I faced by biggest fear in the world.
I went out with my bald head. I entered a space where formerly my image, my looks, my appearance would have been the most important thing in the world. It was a space where I knew I was going to see a lot of people I knew, specifically people from my past, people’s whose opinions used to matter so much to me, whom I desperately wanted to impress, seek validation through their acknowledgement that I was attractive, and therefore worthy. Last night I entered that space, sans beanie, sans scarf , sans any layer of protection. I felt like every shield of comfort I used to hide behind was gone. There I stood, exposed, raw and vulnerable. Naked in a room.
And I have never felt more liberated in my entire life. Stripped free of all the layers, the facades I had constructed to mask an innate fear- there I was. Just me. And I was enough. For the first time in my life, I feel I am enough. Everything I have gone through in my life has been leading me up to this moment. To this moment where I can stand, proud and tall, in a room full of friends, former lovers, people whose approval I thought I needed. Naked. I had to have this experience to gain a sense of understanding, a profound, everlasting, deeply embedded , empirical kind of knowledge that I am always going to be enough. That I don’t need anybody’s approval to feel good in my skin, that I don’t need to achieve some warped, unobtainable conventional idea of beauty to love myself anymore. I am enough as I am. This was the lesson waiting for me. This was what it was all leading up to, that moment last night when I finally realized everything I ever need is already inside of me. I am enough. Cancer came into my life to heal me. To challenge everything I have ever known, to take away every single comfort I ever used to rely on – cancer came to fling me into the scary zone, the unknown, to rid me of vanity, of insecurity, of self-doubt. Cancer came to say – here you go Michelle. You want to hate yourself? Try hating yourself with no hair. Try hating yourself after surviving this. You can’t. You can’t hate yourself anymore. You have no choice but to love yourself.
Life often gives us the most deeply rewarding gifts in the most painful of package. Because isn’t suffering the most valuable gift at the end of the day? The gift of picking yourself up off the bathroom floor, drying your tears, hugging your own bones on a Sunday evening, bandaging up your heart and gripping your power with two hands while stepping forward courageously into your light, into your power.
Last night I proved to myself that I do not need external approval from anyone. That I will always have myself, a shelter in my bones, a house beneath my skin, a heart made of comforts. I realized that this is it, this is really who I am, not the hair, the body, the face but the light inside, the energy, the spirit. Last night after all so many years of trying to find my way… I finally came home to myself.”