Saying “Yes” to Yourself After Cancer: If Not Now, When?

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A week or so before my mastectomy, I had to make an autologous blood donation.  The possibility of needing blood during surgery scared me to death.  I reassured myself the best I could that I wouldn’t use it and the blood would be available to someone else.  I guess it was the word “donation” that gave me that idea.

When I got to the Blood Donor Services Department I found out the blood could only be used by me.  It would be destroyed if I did not need it during surgery.  I was a bit disappointed my blood would be “wasted” and amazed at how easy it had been to bank it.  I told the nurse I would be back after my surgery to donate.  In truth, I had wanted to do that simple act of giving for years, but I never made it happen, despite the fact that there is such a need for donors.  I had no reason for not doing it, other than that I just didn’t make it a priority.  I promised myself I would be back.

Six weeks later, I was recuperating from my surgery and back in the hospital for massage therapy.  While waiting for my appointment, I saw a flyer which read, “Win an invitation to the NY Jets Training Camp if you make an appointment to give blood by May 28th at noon.”  It was May 28th, 10:30 a.m.; the Blood Donor Services Department was steps away from where I sat.  I could make the appointment and possibly win the prize for my son and husband, who are die-hard Jets fans.  I went to massage therapy and made it to the office by 11:30 a.m.  The nurses were welcoming and asked me if I wanted to be in the raffle.  I told them about my husband and son, that my husband was a Jets season ticket holder for over 30 years and how my son, who was 12, would be thrilled to visit the training camp.  I also told them about banking blood earlier and wanting to come back to donate.  I was so happy to be there, doing what I wanted to do, that I was exceptionally chatty.  I left very happy and realized I didn’t need to win to feel great, I already did.

By the time I got home, there was a message that I had won!  I was overjoyed and filled with the symbolism of this very meaningful connection.   I had finally done something I wanted to do, but had always pushed aside as unimportant.   It was an immediate, clear and affirming cancer gift.  As I was battling the losses of cancer, I was learning the power of saying “yes.”  I was choosing to listen to myself and venture out of my comfort zone.  The funny thing is that I always had that choice.  It’s just that having cancer gave me the clarity to exercise it.

Survival > Existence,

Debbie

Image courtesy of Bart Maguire

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