Finding a Light
Recently, we found that my breast cancer had significantly progressed. Previously located only in my bones, the cancer had spread, quickly and aggressively, into my brain, then my liver, and again into my lung. This news was, in a word, devastating. While my oncologist has avoided providing me with any sort of life expectancy timeline, we know that, quite plainly, more cancer is worse than less cancer, and it’s not a great thing when it moves into so many additional organs in the span of a few weeks. How do I - as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a person, reconcile this information on my life expectancy? How do I marry my fear with hope? How do I find the light?
Bucket list and a legacy
This has led me to ask myself, more often now than ever, what legacy I want to leave, and how I want to spend the last few months or years of my life. In many ways, it’s simple to make a bucket list - I did so very quickly and easily a few weeks ago while sitting in a waiting room, tapping my feet in anticipation of another scan, another consultation, and likely more bad news. Ride in a hot air balloon? Definitely on the list. Eat dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant? Of course. Go to Paris? Let’s make it happen. Yet, so many of these experiences were not particularly definitive of the life I wanted to leave behind and failed to encapsulate the type of legacy that I hoped to create for myself. I want to leave a light in the darkness of this disease, a wayfinding beacon to those who find themselves living this life that they never would have chosen. I have spoken out about life with metastatic breast cancer, I have written about it, and have pushed outside of what is comfortable in order to better define the narrative I will leave behind.
What lies ahead
We do not know what lies ahead - it’s as true in life with cancer as it is for life itself. And yet, in life, one of the most excruciating and important tasks is to move forward, not only despite fear, but an acknowledgment and acceptance of that fear. The fundamental unmooring of oneself through change is one of the most difficult things to do in life. However, in these moments of transformation, these painful uprootings, we find that light that can guide us to whatever may lie ahead. We move forward, supported by the belief that the light will come.
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to share that on Sunday, March 29, 2020, Emily Garnett passed away. We know that Emily's advocacy efforts continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.
Caregivers: Do you practice self-care?