My Cancer Diagnosis
When my oncologist explained my breast cancer diagnosis to me, my eyes glazed over from the medical terms and the chemo treatment information. Then I heard, "Laura, your breast cancer is curable." I sat up straight in the chair. I replied, "That's wonderful news! Tell me what I need to do, when I need to do it and I'll be your best patient!"
My oncologist smiled and told to stay positive and take care of myself by eating healthy, lower my stress, and get plenty of sleep. No problem with two of them.
The most challenging request was lowering my stress. I handled the day-to-day operations for my husband's business (ex-husband now) which he started three years prior. I didn't want our clients to be concerned about a decline in customer service while I was out of the office getting my chemo treatments so I kept my cancer journey quiet. Our few employees knew, of course.
Fortunately, my oncologist offered half doses of chemo for a longer treatment period for some of her patients so they could continue their regular routines. Sign me up! I was able to go into the office every day like usual and leave in the afternoon to get my chemo treatment.
Here's Your Sign
There was a big sign on the wall in the chemo treatment room that said "Stay positive. It could be worse." Boy, was that true. My first month of chemo was challenging because the nausea medication to treat my nausea made me nauseous. I tried a different nausea medicine but it made me nauseous, too. What? That makes no sense! Of course, the chemo nurses had never seen a reaction like that before.
Fortunately, my nausea stopped the end of my first month of chemo. I stayed positive because it didn't get worse like the chemo room sign said. I can do this!
No hair? No problem!
I knew the time would come when my hair would fall out from the chemo. No problem, I told myself. I can handle it because I was expecting it. Most cancer patients lose their hair so it's not like I'm the only one. I'll get a wig. It's temporary and my hair will grow back when my chemo stops. I can do this! Wow, was I wrong.
The first day of losing my hair was like a slap in the face from Ms. Reality. Ms. Reality got in my face and shouted at me, "You have cancer, girlfriend! It's real. You're going to be bald and have to wear lots of dangle earrings!" That's when I broke down sobbing in front of my bathroom mirror during my pity party of one. I cry real ugly...really ugly.
The second day of losing my hair went much better. I had accepted the fact that all my hair would fall out soon so I faced it head on. I got an image of Demi Moore's character shaving her hair off in the movie G.I. Jane and thought "Why not?" So, I did. I put on my big girl panties, figured out how to wear my new wig, and moved on with my life. Hey, I'm staying positive just like the chemo room sign stated. I CAN do this!
The following week, an unexpected thing happened when I was putting on my makeup. I had no eyelashes. What?! Where did they go? I HAVE to put on mascara! I have--er, had--sandy blonde hair, blonde eyebrows that never needed plucking since you couldn't see them, and blonde eyelashes. Because I have dark brown eyes, I HAD to wear black mascara. It was the law! Ok, I'm getting carried away. It wasn't actually the law but I thought I read it somewhere in the Blonde's Guide to Wearing Eye Makeup.
I didn't want to mess with fake eyelashes or permanent eyeliner so I did the next best thing. I traded in my contacts for glasses. This worked out great! My glasses hid my eyes a little and distracted from my almost hairless eyebrows. Hey, I'm resourceful AND I'm staying positive. I can do this!
Then something exciting happened. I noticed I lost the hair on my arms and legs. Hallelujah! No more shaving my legs and underarms for a while! It was like I had free laser hair removal! Woohoo! I can take a shower now in under five minutes--no hair to shampoo and no leg hair to shave. Time to move that morning alarm forward so I can get more zzz's. Life is looking pretty good right now because of these new perks. I'm staying positive like the chemo room sign stated. I am totally rocking this!
With The Good Comes The Not-So-Good
But Better Than The Bad
I was so busy focusing on what was happening on the outside of my body that I was caught off guard with what was happening on the inside of my body. At the young age of 55, my chemo treatments flipped off the switch for my menstrual cycle (another perk!) and flipped on the switch for my new friend Ms. Menopause. Ms. Menopause and Ms. Reality discussed my situation and decided to give me a break. They graciously gave me warm flashes instead of hot flashes during my "change of life". That was mighty decent of them.
On two separate occasions, Ms. Menopause heard me complaining about my warm flash on a hot summer day and gave me a hot flash to show me the difference. Well, she got my attention! Thank goodness Ms. Reality wasn't around to slap me in the face, too. I did NOT like the feeling of being on fire with sweat rolling down my face. I was surprised my wig didn't catch on fire from the heat escaping from the top of my head.
One time, a hot flash occurred when I was with a new client who came in the office to sign some paperwork. I was waiting for her to look at me, point at my head and yell "Fire!" I was so worried I'd drip sweat on her paperwork that I hid a tissue in my hand and discreetly dabbed at the sweat rolling down my face.
If I had been in my office alone, I would have closed the door, locked it, and ripped off all my clothes. That's how hot I was. The next day, I had a small desk fan on my desk.
Okay Ms. Menopause, no more complaining from me. I'll gladly stick with the warm flashes, please ma'am. I promise to stay positive like the chemo room sign stated. I can do this!
My Giggle Twin
I have the most wonderful identical twin sister, Lucy, who is my best friend. Our family calls us the Giggle Twins because we are always giggling about something. We don't have our own language like most people think, however, we have experienced so many things together growing up that we only have to give the other a look or say a word and we start giggling. You'd think with all of the giggling and laughing we do that we'd have abs of steel. Nope. Not yet. But we're working on it.
One hot San Antonio summer day, I was complaining to Lucy how I hated walking outside in my wig and getting a warm flash. I was sure you could see steam rising up through of my wig. Does synthetic wig hair melt?
Lucy started to giggle. She said, "When that happens, you should grab your wig off your head, fan your face with it, and say to the people staring 'What? Are you jealous because you can't do this on a hot day?'" and we started giggling. And then laughing while I tried it.
Then, Lucy said "What would be funnier is when you're having a discussion with a difficult person, you could throw your wig down at their feet, put your hands on your hips then loudly say 'Now listen here!' The look on their face would be priceless!" We kept coming up with more scenarios and laughing so hard we thought we might wet our pants. That's okay because I'm staying positive by laughing with my Giggle Twin!
Keep Finding The Humor
Almost six years later, that sign in the chemo room continues to be a constant reminder for me to stay positive during hardship. It could be much worse and thankfully it's not. Not everyone has a Giggle Twin but I do hope you have a Giggle Buddy to help you find the humor during hardship.
When you stay positive, you'll be amazed at the opportunities you can find to make your life better. Remember what they say, if you're thinking about buying a yellow car then you'll see yellow cars everywhere. You can also be an inspiration to someone struggling through their own hardship.
I let people know that it wasn't always easy to stay positive during my hardships, but I became a stronger and more resilient woman through my adversity.
How do you find humor during or after difficult situations?
Daily Mantra: Hunt the good stuff, find the humor, stay positive, and focus on your blessings. God can bring good out of every situation!