"I'll be your savior, steadfast and true. I'll come to your emotional rescue, I'll come to your emotional rescue. Yeah, the other night , crying crying baby, yeah I'm crying like a child baby. I'm like a child baby."
- The Rolling Stones "Emotional Rescue"
I can remember being 7 years old and wanting so badly to audition for my elementary school talent show. I knew how to twirl a baton and thought I could make a performance of it. But as a child that found mornings abhorrent I was, as was typical, running late and I knew I was forgetting something. What was it that I needed to bring to school that morning? Hmmmm...oh yea, my baton.
Tryouts were that afternoon and with my bold, brash confidence I stood up and announced my intention to the music teacher. He looked puzzled, and then asked where my baton was. I assured him I could do my routine without it...and I did. I twirled and danced and even threw the baton up in the air and caught it single handedly and with flourish.
Then I went back to my seat thinking, nailed it!
I got into the talent show...but not with my baton. They much preferred the spunky kid that fought to get into that talent show, the swarthy little Italian girl who just rolled with the minor inconvenience of a forgotten prop. I often think back to that experience as setting the tone for my life. Whatever curveballs life threw at me...whatever hurdles I had to overcome...whatever unforeseen catastrophe may be waiting ... I did what do I had to do and found a way over, around or through that obstacle.
Boy - I had no idea how well those tools would serve me some thirty years later.
In 2007 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I reluctantly traded one year of my life to surgeries and treatments to hopefully gain many, many more. I was terrified and on auto-pilot. I just wanted to do what I had to do and move forward. See, I wasn't always the breast cancer badass you know today.
Regular exercise and eating more healthfully became paramount. I began writing, first to help myself process the shit hand I had been dealt, but then to help others play out their hand with humor, empowerment, and emotional support. I've been both praised and criticized for finding humor in my diagnosis and treatment but if you know me well then you know that when the day comes that I can't laugh is the day that this stupid disease wins...and I'm not having that!
In 2009 I got the first of many tattoos. In 2010 I ran my first 5K. In 2012 I published a book and then six months later found out I had cancer again. This time I traded 18 months of my life in the hopes, again, of gaining many more years. I was far more pissed-off than scared and it took a long time to let go of the anger and just accept it.
More exercise and a dramatic diet change followed this diagnosis...(yes, I'm a meat loving vegan). I still write and I've set more goals, most of which are short term, time is not a luxury I am guaranteed. I've immersed myself in the cancer community, where once I was a very reluctant observer, I'm now a gold-plated card carrying member and it is the best club I never wanted to belong to.
I love harder and hurt more. I have little if any patience for drama and I've set some very clear priorities. My views may not always make everyone happy but they are mine and mine alone...so suck it. I've befriended my demons and know them by name. Whatever, they'll never take over even if sometimes, when my guard is down they gain a little ground. Fuckers.
I've done my best to overcome my hurdles and adjust to my new reality. I have a much better understanding of who I am and how strong I can be even if some days I'd just rather stay in bed with the blankets pulled up over my head. I'm more comfortable in my own scarred and tattooed body now at 46 than I ever have been before and that makes me smile on the inside as well as on the outside. Maybe that just comes with aging and wisdom? I don't know. For me it coincided with a very rocky, bumpy path I was set on eight years ago.
All of us have stuff to deal with in our adult lives, I'm not unique (mine just happens to be breast cancer) but inside I'm still that spunky, swarthy, fearless little girl that had to get into the talent show, it just took me thirty years to find her again. Many of us have lingering insecurities and issues left over from childhood, pain from previous relationships that intrude on current ones, workplace drama, special needs children, addictions, all of it is some pretty messy stuff. Stuff we'd prefer not to deal with but we do and each of us, every day and in our own ways, we have overcome, we've rescued others and been rescued too. We've accepted our stuff, jumped the hurdles, found ways to survive what we thought would kill us.