When I was 34, I thought I had everything - a home in Kaua'i, financial security, a small business I believed in, and a long list of dreams I was ready to make come true. I thought that I had finally made it to that place we all start thinking of when we hit our 30s: the end of the pier, watching my ship come in. How could I have known that weeks before my 35th birthday, I would be diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, and be mere months away from losing everything I thought was so secure, so un-lose-able?
I pride myself on being a bootstrapper - on being able to do everything myself, with my own two hands. I made it through the loss of two parents, have rebuilt my life not once, not twice, but THREE times, in three different industries, in three different cities. I am nothing if not resilient and resourceful, but one thing I've realized I need to work on is accepting help. Accepting the generosity of other people who would like to be a part of my journey, but see my self-determination as a barrier to that generosity.
When I was diagnosed, I Googled survivor statistics of Stage 3 Triple-Negative Breast Cancer, and realized I had a 67% chance of making it to 40 without a recurrence. Believing that the best medicine for a life-threatening disease (and believe me, I never forget that cancer is a life-threatening disease) is living life to its fullest, I made a list of 40 things I wanted to do before that 40th birthday, in case it was my last birthday.
So far, I've checked off 18 of these "40-by-40s," despite being bankrupt from medical bills my insurance didn't cover, despite having to start over in a job market from scratch, and despite having to rebuild my body, one atrophied muscle at a time. I know now what this list was: a ladder. Something that helped me climb out of a dark place, back into the life I thought I was in danger of losing because of cancer. I credit this ladder with keeping me healthy these last four years - for giving me something stronger than cancer, stronger than disappointment or discouragement or derailment. At this point, I know it doesn't matter if I check them all off - I've checked off enough to get me to a place where I'm happy and healthy and looking forward to my future, which was the whole point.
There is *ONE* goal, however, that is finally, in this last year, within my reach, even though I can barely believe it myself: Climbing Kilimanjaro - the tallest peak in Africa - with Sean Swarner, the only cancer survivor to have climbed Mt. Everest, and all Seven Summits. In a phrase, it is the opportunity of a lifetime.
I'm incredibly lucky - if I scrimp and save, if I live off Ramen and cereal for four months - I can swing this trip. When I did the math, I was astounded it was even possible (and yes, even questioned if I should be saving for a car instead of a climbing trip). But then I thought of all the people who would have liked to have been a part - a tangible part - of making these last 5 years post-survival possible. I'm not good at accepting help - like I said, I pride myself on being able to do everything on my own. But lately, I've come to see this unwillingness to accept help as a detriment to my character.
So here's your chance - and my chance - to share my triumph. I'm not going to say, "Oh, it's okay, I got it," or "No, I don't need anyone's help, I can do it myself." I'm going to say, "Yes, actually, I could use some help." I'm going to say, "Thank you."
So thank you. Thank you for being a part of this, and to quote ee cummings:
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
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