Those fateful words “it’s malignant” took my breath away. Nearly three years ago, on a cold Saturday night, on the phone in my bedroom closet, my radiologist delivered the words that altered my life’s story. Now, out of treatment, surgery and therapy for almost a year, looking back on that moment and the chain reaction of chaos that ensued, I feel an overwhelming sense of calm – of hope – of love. It’s the unexpected “gift” that cancer brings, and it’s powerful.

The gift of presence:
I realize that I move a little slower – with intention – in less of a hurry. I am more in tune with my surroundings. How my body is feeling. What’s around me. I spend more time outside. I cook more. I eat less meat. Actually, no meat. I am vegan. I notice my kids’ demeanor now, almost instantly. I remind them (too often) to be grateful. I practice mindfulness. I have learned to breath through anxiety and let it pass. I feel good. Not great. Not normal. But pretty good. I am glad to be here.

The gift of priorities:
I spent the better part of two years dealing with my diagnosis, and solid part of the last year recovering from recovery. It’s amazing how quickly life passes when you aren’t looking. Suddenly, the notion of time has become very valuable to me. Spending time with those who matter to me has become a top priority. An unexpected lunch with “Dad” (a term of endearment for my husband) when he’s off from work. A chance opportunity to see my sister or brothers, my dad or cousins. A glass of wine with the girls. Also, the absence of people. A conscious decision to fill my world with more joyful people. People who raise me up. People I feel better just being around. And more time spent doing “Jeni” things. Art shows. Travel. Cooking. Knitting. Pottery. Reading. Reconnecting. Not taking days for granted. Stepping into the sunshine. Stepping toward priorities.

The gift of purpose:
Of course, no one would ask to be given the insight or experience of living through breast cancer. Yet, I have been bestowed this unique gift of insight. There’s a strange phenomenon that happens when you become part of the club. Anyone and everyone has a story to share with you. Not about themselves, more often about someone they know. There were two such people in my path, guardian angels that helped me through the tough times, listened and consoled me. In the wee hours of the night, alone with my thoughts, they’d answer my text messages without hesitation. I’ve never met either one in-person, but am so grateful for their introductions. Those connections pushed the fear factor to the way side and helped me understand, cope and overcome what I was faced with. I will pay their kindness forward, infinitely.

The gift of hope:
I recently took a full-time job. I fought it tooth-and-nail, cherishing my little solo act and independence. Still, honestly, for the first time in I don’t know how many years, I don’t have to worry about finding healthcare, staying with my team of doctors (six!) at the end of the year, or – more candidly – if I could even afford to keep them. Continuity of care without compromise gives me hope for my future. Knowing I’m covered is such a huge relief. I hope I never have to use it. As my husband said, when I asked him if he’d contribute his perspective to my blog posts, “For a co-survivor, there is a mixture of being thankful, relief and joy. You look at life differently and come to appreciate simple moments. Every day together is a gift.”

And he’s right. It’s a powerful gift.

About Jeni Moore
I was diagnosed at age 43 with stage 3 IDC.
I found a lump myself, in the shower. It was a malignant lymph node.
I received chemo, radiation, a bilateral mastectomy and an oophorectomy.
I am not BRAC1 or BRAC2 positive. I am Chk2 positive. I have a long family
history of breast cancer.
I’ve been a “better half” for 20 years.
I’m a mother of three amazing kids and one ridiculously horrible dog.
I’m a graphic designer by day and a would-be potter by night.
And I am also a survivor.