Becoming Cinderella: Having courage and being kind – in the face of breast cancer

I was 27 days shy of my 51st birthday when I heard the words.

Well let me rephrase that because I didn’t actually ‘hear’ anything. Instead I saw numerous sets of lips moving and words vibrating from them. However, when I realized they were directing the words in my direction, I looked over my shoulder to see who the person was who they were giving the diagnosis to… it was ME!

This information was very sobering. My soul cried before I did. I just remember my surgeon looking at me as self-pity tears were running silently and uncontrollable down my face…“Are you ok?”

I didn’t want to cry. I hadn’t given my body permission to cry. But I wasn’t in control anymore. “I’m ok, I’m just a little overwhelmed. I can’t believe you are talking about me and I have breast cancer.”

It was that easy… and I was changed… on the spot. I knew there was a big lesson coming, and of course, likely a very difficult year.

To quote my very dear friend and Breast Cancer survivor, Jen, who has given numerous and humorous words of advice, “It’s like being served a huge big plate of mortality… COLD!” How’s your appetite today friend? “Oh I’ll pick alive and kicking, thanks”.

Now another reality… Words like “cancer”, “tumor”, and “mass” are not spoken gently, soothingly or with any form of compassion. I thought about it… why would they be? But you automatically think when it comes to saying the “C” word, the voice would drop to a silent whisper, as if it’s not really being said. Or perhaps it would be slipped into the conversation because it has to be, but mumbled until it’s passed by and preceded by a nice acceptable word, like cheesecake.

But no. I guess these uncomfortable words can’t be given preferential treatment. Life is all about balance. Each word has its own perfect weight. No one was trying to save my feelings or protect me from the shock factor… Oh no, these words are pronounced and used as proudly as every other word in the English dictionary. They are said with the same energy and delicious tone as “chocolate”, “cupcake” and “wine”. Something else I got used to really quickly!

When I returned from the surgeon’s appointment, I went upstairs to my bedroom. Although there was no snow on the lovely walnut stained hardwood floor, had there been I would have been in the perfect starting position for a snow angel.

You see, I needed to surrender. I needed to pass this “burden” on to someone more qualified and experienced in the life category than me. It was a no brainer. I didn’t understand any of it. Sure, I got the medical procedures, i.e what needs to be done when and why (I’m a supplier manager by career, I do strategy and planning really well in the corporate world) but the emotional side, i.e  “Why did this happen to me”, “I’ve always been a good person”, “There is no breast cancer in my family”, “I watch my weight and sugar intake”… Well, they were all confusing to me and I knew I wasn’t going to have the energy to try to get the response to each of them nor was it a good idea to use what energy I had to try and answer them, well at least not now. Would it change the scenario ? No. Move on.

So with my fingers stretched, legs as wide as I could get them  –  trust me I cursed at not keeping up my hot yoga classes but did my best  –  I surrendered. I gave myself back to the ONE who made me. The manufacturer who held a copy of my Working Instructions Manual. The ONE, who, let’s face it, will decide how I handle all this depending on how much I decided to return to the loving arms of the great I AM!  I was taking a first class ticket on that train my friend. Shovel on the coal and blow that whistle!

Surgery, recovery and removal of stitches was a breeze, I just knuckled down. Using a lot of Louise Hay self-love work helped. Slowly I was learning that I had neglected myself. Did I love myself as much as all these other souls I had helped over the years in times of need, sadness, life changing health diagnosis? No I didn’t, and that was the hard, sad truth. Time to start loving myself… No better time than the present and TIME was something I was going to have a lot of on my hands.

It was Jen’s 5 year old adorable grand-daughter, Laura, who inspired me to watch the new Disney Cinderella movie. She said it was awesome and I trusted her judgement. When “Ella’s” mum is dying, albeit far too young and beautiful, she tells her daughter two things:

To always have courage and to be kind.

Now, I’m a 51 year old grown woman. I’m watching a fairytale movie and getting over a breast cancer diagnosis. I’m eating smoky bacon potato chips, in comfy yoga pants, lying on the sofa with my scrumptious 6lbs Morkie on my lap, having a self-pity party. After completing three out of six chemo sessions, bald as a bowling pin, planning 20 daily sessions of radiation, these are the words of advice I needed to hear. I thought to myself, “what beautiful advice and a great philosophy to live by”  Thanks 5 year old Laura!

Have courage? Never had much of that. FEAR, what a terrible word, robs us of all our dreams. Fear of not being good enough, worthy enough, pretty enough. FEAR of failure. How horrible does that sound? Does that make your soul feel liberated? Not one bit… Does your soul want to be FREE? Absobloominglutely!!!

Does it matter if I fail the first time ? Who will care? Who will class me as a failure? Does anyone have the credentials? NO, just ME… It’s time to be AUDACIOUS!

Be Kind? This I’ve tried my best to do all my life. Sometimes to those who didn’t deserve it. Does that mean I need to change? Become cold?  I’ve learned that life doesn’t discriminate….sending sunshine and roses to those who do no wrong and nasty diseases to the, lets just call them, the “not so nice” …life in all its watercolors happens to EVERYONE… you don’t know what you’re going to get. We are not being punished..we are just “experiencing

One of my favourite quotes is by CS Lewis who said:

“You don’t have a Soul. You ARE a Soul. What you have is a body.”

We are a creation of all our life choices we have made to date; good and bad. And these choices can be changed, turned around like the spin of a sixpence. Throw in a pinch of DNA, genetics (which you can’t do anything about) and that’s it: YOUR LOT. What are you going to do with it? Duh… the best I can, that’s what!

I’m off to my 4th chemo tomorrow. A different recipe. Dipping fingers and toes in ice to prevent the possibility of losing a nail. But I intend to have courage. I am safe. I am in good hands of the UNIVERSAL physician. Why would I not be brave?

And, I will be kind to everyone I meet. I don’t know the journey they are on and I’ve learned best not to judge. Things are rarely as they appear.

I’ve decided to leave my ball gown at home tomorrow though. Girls can still be a little bitchy and jealous, even with breast cancer… but I will advise you to get yourself a good pair of Dr. Scholl’s gel inserts… these glass slippers are murder for the feet!

Storykeeper: Catherine Donaghy-Mayor

Born on 4th January, 1965 in Belfast, N. Ireland. My parents split when I was 19 yrs old resulting in no relationship with my father who died 7 years later. Career; 30 years of managing suppliers in the aerospace industry. Thought I would never marry but was sent to Montreal, Canada with work where I met and married my soulmate at age 40 and became an instant step-mom to two beautiful girls who I consider my own. Better late than never comes to mind. Always been an over-giver and people-pleaser. Diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in December, 2015. My mum died in May 2016 in between 4th and 5th chemo. I wrote this story before I lost my mum. I’m not a writer so if I touch or inspire just one person, I will be happy.


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