A New Experience

I was invited to write the Foreword for an upcoming book, written by fellow cancer survivor, Ute Buehler.  Our cancer journeys are dramatically different, hence our stories are as well.  My Point of View for this piece is to be “an unwilling expert,” encouraging readers to share their stories  and discover life resources by reading other’s.  Here is my first Foreword.  The book will be available mid 2014.  I will keep you posted.

Unfortunately, we all know something about cancer. It is a rare person whose life has not been touched by cancer, either as a patient, family member, friend, or caregiver.  Statistics tell us that one in three women, and one in two men, will be diagnosed with some type of cancer in their lifetime. Cancer is either the number one or number two cause of death in the United States, depending on where you live.  In Minnesota, it is number one.  I live in Minnesota, but I didn’t die.  I am a cancer survivor.  I describe cancer as the narrow spot in an hourglass.  I am the sand that has traveled from the top, through the tight spot, to the bottom—the same sand, but now arranged differently.

The broadest definition of a cancer survivor is a person living with and beyond cancer, from the time of diagnosis onward to the end of life. So what are we to do with the statistical reality of occurrence and our somewhat misguided belief that we will be the one who is spared?  Name it.  Talk about it.  And gather resources.

Our lives are unique journeys, with twists and turns that teach us lessons along the way.  When we pay attention during our narrow spots, we gather resources and methods of navigation we can use when the hourglass is overturned again. Stories are essential to our nature and survival, helping us to make sense of our lives, and keeping us in contact with others.  Wholeheartedly sharing stories, as a teller or a listener, strengthens resilience, which is an integral part of health, as well as wellness and the capacity to heal 

We cannot control what will happen in our lives, but we can control what we bring along with us on the journey.  Start collecting resources.  Other people’s stories bring us perspective on our own, and show ways to navigate we can access when needed.  Not as a comparison, but rather they provide us with the ability to look at the same thing from a different angle, and develop a new relationship with it.   

My cancer story began with a soft, non-painful lump on my left wrist, followed by the diagnosis of Soft Tissue Sarcoma. This led to the amputation on my dominant hand and forearm.  I cannot hide it, nor do I want to. I have learned to accept, adapt, and accommodate. There is nothing I cannot do with patience, persistence, and grace.  I’ve learned asking someone for help is a gift to them as well as myself—and I get to choose when not to do something.  I share my story out of strong sense of gratitude for excellent medical care, and for a lifetime of paying attention, and building resources.  

This book is one woman’s story of her journey with cancer. May it be a resource to others who, while having a different experience than what is described here, will see there is always possibility when one goes through a narrow spot with patience, persistence, faith, and intention.  There is authentic inspiration in the realization that if someone else has been through it, and survived to tell the story, there is also hope for us.  This story, along with yours and mine, will continue to evolve. 

– Ruth Bachman, Author of Growing Through the Narrow Spots

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