Hello, My name is Rosalie Movius. For those of you who don't know me, I have recently completed chemotherapy for breast cancer. I am still recovering from the surgery and chemotherapy today.
You know that I have joined an illustrious group. Yule Brynner, Britney Spears, and our own Mitch Bixby, to name a few. I want to tell you some jokes because people tend to get very serious and unsure about how to react around people with bald heads and cancer.
China has a population of a billion people. One billion. That means even if you are a one-in-a-million kind of woman, there are still a thousand others exactly like you - Whitney Brown.
I saw that show, "50 things to Do before you die." I would have thought the obvious one was "Shout for help" - Mark Watson.
"You know, I have decided that I'm going to live forever, or die trying" - Joseph Heller.
God knows that life sucks. It's right there in the Bible. The book of Job is all about Job asking God to take away pain and misery. And God says, "I can't take away pain and misery because then no one would talk to me" - Bill Maher.
There. Now you know that you can laugh at anything that I say. There are hundreds of books on breast cancer. My favorite book is a graphic novel entitled, Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, by Miriam Engelberg. It validated so many of my feeling and fears. What if I had to endure all the pain, sickness and suffering and I was the same old me?
My sister, Margaret, died of breast cancer at the age of 44. I gave a first word about her transformation during the final years of her life. I remember saying that I wanted to be transformed (did I really want to be transformed) but I didn't want to have to die in order to do it.
Everything happens very quickly when you are diagnosed with breast cancer. One week after getting the diagnosis from the needle aspiration, I met the surgeon and one week after that, I was in surgery.
My recovery from surgery went very well. I had two weeks when I was well enough from the surgery to consider the question of chemotherapy. I dreaded (as all of us do) the prospect of feeling nauseated, weak, confused and generally sick. For five months.
So I made a bargain with God. Just like Hezekiah. I didn't try Hezekiah's line, "God, I have been such a good person for such a long time. I'm a member of West Hills Friends, I was a steward, and I went to Peru!!" Spare my life. I guess I was too insecure in my righteousness.
My bargain went something like this. "Gee God, if I do this chemotherapy, let me live for ten more years. I want to see Morgan graduate from High School and college." I even asked a group of friends from West Hills to gather with me to rattle God's chain a little harder.
And then the waiting began. Waiting for the worst days to pass. Waiting to feel almost human again. Waiting for the 4 days each two week cycle when I could see patients in my medical practice. Waiting for my physical strength to return even as I lost strength with each round of chemotherapy. Waiting for my hair to grow back.
A good friend suggested that I needed to have a project to dream about. I have always enjoyed sewing and have made a few small quilts. I had never made a bed sized quilt. I had all those small pieces of left over fabric and fat squares that I had purchased over the years. And so I made this quilt during all those days when I didn't have more than 15 minutes of energy to do anything productive.
I have finished chemotherapy. At least for now. I will be angry, again, if this cancer recurs but I will not be angry at God. I have come to peace that this is simply the life I live now.
I have always loved Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken. This is the final stanza.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference.
My road has taken a turn, it has rounded the bend, it has disappeared into a deeper thicket. But it is my road to walk.
The only "serious" cancer book I have read during this process is called Speak the Language of Healing. It is written by four women of faith, a Jew, a Catholic, a Buddhist and a Protestant. It confirmed my own need to express my fears and feelings of having cancer differently. I am not at war with my cancer. I'm not battling for my life. I am not a survivor of breast cancer. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and now I am living my life.
I am not making a bargain with God now. I am living the life I have been given as graciously as I know how. Will there be more lessons on the way? You bet.