Cancer is… Learning to Live Fearlessly
I’ve officially lost three friends, all women, to metastatic breast cancer. 2019, 2020, 2022. My heart feels heavy, like it’s anchored to a ship of pain. I don’t want to be tethered to pain, so I’m letting the grief flow, sometimes in crashing waves, sometimes in steady streams, sometimes in silence.
My friend Ana passed unexpectedly, and it’s been hard. Her husband sent a text that read, “I saw you called Ana and I wanted to reach out to you.” My PTSD kicked in as an anxiety attack made its presence known, I didn’t want to hear it, but I needed to know. He graciously answered all my questions, but I still don’t have answers. He told me not to apologize for sobbing uncontrollably. I wanted to tell him about my survivor’s guilt, I wanted to tell Ana she wasn’t wrong for believing she was “on her way back.” I wanted to tell him I hope he’ll find a balm for his heart wound but all I could do was make sure I stayed connected to my body.
When I made it home, I found comfort in watching my dog play with her toys. She was so animated as she playfully barked, all I felt was joy. It was a brief spurt, but it made me feel full, witnessing life express itself in all its wonder through my furry angel.
Cancer is learning to live fearlessly.
In a community such as this, loss can feel like it’s everywhere; lurking, sucking the joy out of life itself. But that is not true. Loss is real, the pain is real but so is joy, laughter, and hope.
Ana came into my life when I was suffering. I’d recently had a recurrence and was healing from my bilateral mastectomy. The PTSD I experienced felt almost debilitating, while depression was trying to settle in and stay awhile. But then I met Ana, and she became like a younger sister to me. My pain felt smaller, my mission became sharing optimism and insight. This was her first cancer diagnosis, and she was struggling with the why’s of it all. I wish I’d thought to tell her how she helped me heal. I wish I’d made this correlation while she was still here.
The experience of losing another friend has caused me to make a conscious effort to walk through the fear. This is not easy. Living fearlessly for me is moving towards the manifestation of dreams that fear has held dormant. It’s allowing myself to unapologetically imagine where I’ll be living in five years, to embrace each day as it comes but with a playful spirit. Fear tells me that I can’t make plans because cancer survivors and thrivers no longer get that privilege. I will no longer subscribe to those limiting beliefs.
Living fearlessly is going to evolve as I evolve, but my intention with this mindset is to acknowledge how grateful I am to still be sharing, growing, and loving through this journey.
Fear is so easy to embrace. It settles in and takes hold; it isolates and consumes. Ana’s death is a reminder that joy can leave an equally powerful imprint. I am learning to live in joy. Each day being intentional about where I want my thoughts to land.
Some days are really, really, hard, but I never lose sight that I get another chance, another breath. Too many wonderful souls have transitioned due to this dreadful disease for me to take one second for granted. Living with purpose, allowing excitement to fully form and flow through me is living fearlessly. I deserve that, we all do.
Kai McGee is a writer who frequently explores parenting, her journey through breast cancer, social-justice and self-care. She is currently working on her memoir. Connect with her via Instagram @onanaturalkai
Cancer Is… is a monthly Blog where Kai McGee explores thoughts on what cancer is and is not from her lens of walking the journey as a survivor, thriver and champion for Breast Cancer awareness.