Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why So Many Turtlenecks?

Being diagnosed with cancer for a second time put my fear at High Alert. It seemed to me that since I had been diagnosed with this melanoma so many years after the retinablastoma, it was reasonable to believe that all things were possible when it came to cancer in my life...Yuck! The doctor had also discovered and removed an additional small melanoma on the back of my leg. I would need to return to a dermatologist every three months for a full body check. To me that meant I would face this scary fear of another cancer recurrence each time I would go for a check up. I somehow needed to figure out a way to keep this fear under control and as far away from my daily life as possible. There were times I just wanted to scream, "Cancer, get the hell out of my life!"

A part of me felt like I was ready to begin healing, but at that point in my life I was concentrating only on the physical healing because that's all I knew. I had no thought of asking God for help in this healing, since I was overpowered by the crippling fear that had a tight hold on my thoughts and beliefs. Because of this fear, I never took the time to sit quietly and listen for that little voice inside me...I was too busy avoiding thinking about anything related to cancer in hopes that it would gently disappear from my life.

When I was strong enough to return to teaching it was wonderful because being with the students offered me a marvelous distraction from my fears. During my hours in the classroom I was focused solely on meeting the individual needs of each child, so there was little room for negative thoughts or fears. There was one problem I faced daily...finding an outfit to wear that covered up the length of my scar. So much energy wasted on hiding what I considered to be my most obvious outward imperfections, my eye and now my new scar. Honestly, it took me weeks and weeks of wearing turtleneck shirts and sweaters before I took a long, loving look at myself in the mirror. It was the first time in months that I genuinely smiled at the woman I saw looking back at me. I looked closely at the scar on my neck and realized that it was the physical evidence left from the surgery that had saved my life. If I had never had the surgery that gave me that scar, then I may no longer be here on earth. The cancer would have been given an opportunity to continue growing and spreading throughout my body.

That discovery gave me a brand new appreciation for my life and my scar, offering me freedom to move my turtlenecks to the back of the closet. In retrospect, this was my first clear-cut chance to experience growth and change as a positive event in my life...what a beautiful gift from God, and one that I will always cherish.

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