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Can you pinpoint the worst day of your life?
If you’d asked me before May 12, 2014, I wouldn’t have been able to give you an answer. Sure, unpleasant things had happened to me, but nothing really stood out as that much worse than your garden-variety bad day.
Six years ago this week, though, I held my husband’s hand as I walked into a small, windowless room that was obviously built for people receiving shitty news. The non-threatening art on the walls. The vaguely inspirational new-agey music in the speakers. The ominous tissue boxes always at arm’s reach.
I looked into my husband’s wide eyes, and I could tell that he, too, already knew the news we’d be receiving in a few minutes. I would walk out of this appointment as a cancer patient, and our lives would never be the same.
Yes, treatment sucked. Yes, six years later, the literal and figurative scars remain. I learned a lot as I trudged through those months of treatment and the years that followed, though. If I could go back to speak that hugely pregnant woman clutching her husband’s hand as she felt the world stop, here’s what I would tell her.
You are stronger than you know
I know you don’t think that you can do this. I know you don’t feel like a particularly tough person. That’s just because you’ve never been tested. You will bear scary and uncomfortable tests and treatments with courage and grace.
Relatives, friends, and strangers will say, “I don’t know how you do it.” You will think, “I wasn’t given a choice”. You will plod through the pain, fear, and sickness, and you will come out on the other side a warrior.
One day, in a year or so, you’ll be dragging your wrecked body around the gym. You’ll look at all the musclebound guys trying to outdo each other in the weight room, and you’ll think to yourself, “I’m the toughest motherfucker in here.” And you’ll be right.