Waiting. I feel like I’ve been doing that a lot lately. You?
I’ll admit it. Patience is something I’m learning. I found either I need…
a. answers now (as in yesterday),
b. for things to happen fast.
I’m not sure if I was born this way or the busy world we live in is shaping me into someone who can’t quite sit still, or if I simply thrive when kept busy. I enjoy calling myself a mover and shaker.
A lot of this started in my twenties after graduating college. It was like: Welcome to the Real World. Good luck. I panicked. Now what? The independence and freedom were awesome, but I was a lost duck. I tried to understand the knot growing in my stomach but I didn’t know what to do about it. I did what any young single college graduate would do, I found a lot of substitutes to fill the void and I kept myself busy, real busy, hoping for an answer. But there was one thing I realized: I needed more. I craved more.
Why wasn’t I ever satisfied? I mean, I was doing some really great things. But I did a lot of comparing too. Everyone else seemed happier. Everyone else had better jobs, or had life figured out. All everyone else needed to do was smile and I swore their dreams were handed to them. I felt I had to work three times as hard. And still nothing. For some reason, I was in too much of a hurry and was hungry to move on to the next big thing. In doing so, I forgot to enjoy my own milestones (big and small). By the time I recognized the preciousness, I was on to the next phase. I couldn’t go back.
I think our twenties and growing into adulthood should be an adventure, a time of exploring, learning and discovering ourselves. Looking back, I consider myself very fortunate because some people have to grow up quickly, not always by choice.
Upon entering my thirties, a few things have been clear. I’m more confident in my skin. I like who I’ve become and I’m more content with life in general. And it’s when I am able to be there for someone, lend an ear or offer hope, I finally feel whole. Like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, almost as if I’m actually making a difference. But on the flipside, I definitely couldn’t prepare myself for the challenges ahead.
What has stood out to me most in this newer decade is more and more people around me are getting sick. I’m not talking the flu or cold, I’m talking the “C” word. Cancer. These people I speak of aren’t old people either (though getting cancer at any age doesn’t make it okay); they are 30-somethings with cancer. My age.
And now I’m left wondering why I’ve been in such a rush to get to this point? For this? Why didn’t I enjoy the carefree days a little more? Why didn’t I pay more attention? Why didn’t I allow myself to treasure what was going on around me more?
A dear friend of mine, Erin Youngerberg, (a New Prague native) went in to get a mole checked back in 2009, when she lived in North Carolina. She’s never been one to spend the summers in the sun but has light skin, reddish auburn hair and a bit of Irish in her. The mole on her upper back was bothering her; enough for her to get a doctor look at it, but was told it was nothing. In the meantime it bled a little, and itched, and grew a little bigger.
But if doctors say it’s okay, it must be okay. Right?
In 2010, Erin went on a trip of a lifetime to New Zealand. Her backpack rubbed up against that pesky mole, prompting her to make an appointment when she returned. At that time she had just switched jobs and moved to New Jersey. She set up an appointment at a new clinic. “It’s probably nothing,” said the nurse, but did a biopsy to please Erin’s persistence—a feeling she just couldn’t let go.
The waiting began.
Would the news be good or bad? Inside, Erin felt she already knew the answer. Cancer. Malignant Melanoma.
More waiting. More tests.
The latest tests came back. Stage 4 Malignant Melanoma. That wasn’t all. Small amounts were found in her lungs.
Waiting takes on a whole new meaning. Rushing through life doesn’t seem so urgent anymore. Other things that seemed to matter so much really don’t. Getting that great job, losing ten more pounds, an annoying coworker, the cute shoes at Macy’s. All those little stressors that will always be there don’t seem to be such a big deal.
But time does.
Erin is healthy. She’s full of life, and all but 32. Can this really be happening? I mean, didn’t I spend time eating whole pizzas with her in Italy and throwing back Ouzo and Mythos beer in Greece in our twenties? Why didn’t I cherish those times more? But I bet I was waiting to get back home to finish a project or worrying about the money I was spending.
How can she have cancer?
She tries to answer all our questions in her blog, and keeps us updated on the new drug treatment doctors hope to experiment with. And she takes pictures. Lots of pictures. Perhaps her eyes are wide open and she's able to see the real beauty around us, in what I so easily take for granted.
With May being Skin Cancer Awareness month, I urge you all to get your moles checked. If that's not enough, visit Erin's blog - Melanoma in the City!
The hardest part is waiting. It always is and probably will always be. But I think there is a lesson in it.
I can’t help but think that maybe we’re not put on this earth to wait or to fill our days with meaningless substitutes. Instead maybe we should enjoy the gift we’ve been given. Time. Time to enjoy each day for what it is and the miracles it brings—a full day of living. Maybe what we’re supposed to do is let go of all the fears and worries and trust that there is something bigger and greater behind this all. It’s hard to do, and takes a huge leap of faith, but I’ve noticed real amazing things start to happen when we let go. Truth and understanding peek through a little at time.
So what is it that we’re exactly waiting for? Why aren’t we simply living? I put my selfish thoughts in perspective and thought of Erin as I left an appointment at the skin doctor (got my own moles checked). In honor of her, I drove away with my windows down, my hair whipping me in the face and for once, in a real long time, I lived in the moment. And it felt good.
Do you know a young(er) person with cancer? What lessons have you learned from them?
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