I saw the above quote displayed somewhere on social media in the time between my diagnosis and 1st chemo treatment. That aforementioned time period was the most harrowing for me to date. It was filled with anxiety, fear, and sleepless nights from neurotic googling. It was by far some of the lowest moments in life and I felt all of my positivity, brightness and “sparkle” extinguished. I wasn’t sure where “Lianne” was exiled to or how to handle this new reality. I felt like my soul,…and my life was shattered in a million unrecognizable pieces scattered all over the hospitals I was frequenting and sprinkled within the tears that I couldn’t stop shedding. It wasn’t my finest hour(s), that’s for sure.
In those awful first weeks, I started to find relief through the love and support of close friends and also in connecting with fellow breast cancer fighters and survivors. They were strangers but yet I felt an automatic, strong bond with them. Despite that they were thousands of miles away, San Francisco, LA, Maine, NYC – these were women referred to me by friends, all fighting our fights, in our respective cities. It was through their honest depiction of their journeys and sound advice coupled with loving texts, visits, calls, and hugs from my close friends- that I felt able at times to pick up some of the shattered pieces to put towards feeling slightly whole again. During that time, I also struggled with trying to work through the conflicting emotions I was (am still) feeling. I felt motivated at times, wanting to shout a big “fuck you!” to cancer and determined to beat the hell out of it. Other times, I wanted (and did) crawl into a ball under my covers, too scared or tired to deal with anything.
It was during one of my crawl under the cover moments that I thought back to all the moments in my life when I experienced these subjectively worst types of fears- feeling scared, anxious, uncomfortable and unsure. How did I get through it then? I realized it was in those intense moments where I felt most broken, that I was able to grow the most. Overcoming those most broken moments, resulted in some of the most colorful moments of my life thus far.
In life you’re always going to have moments that break you, it’s how you choose to handle those situations that differentiates you. A past great love (when we were dating in our mid-twenties) once shared with me his favorite mantra, “the only thing to fear, is fear itself”. It’s stuck with me to this day. Before I walk into every scary big deal, before every big presentation or talk, before anxious first (or even 5th) dates, after intense break ups, before meetings with intimidating people, before every interview or uncomfortable situation, before dealing with cancer, I think of it. When trapped into those corners, one can either choose to let the fear consume and cripple them – thus letting it win. Or they can choose to face the fear head on and overcome it – thus letting themselves win. Brush it off and keep coloring.
On the eve of my next chemo, although a lot of great unknowns have been removed, the anxiety is still there. And although I’m still broken and fearful, I refuse to let that overtake my desire to grit through it and come out stronger, this next time or any other time on things that matter in my life.
Because now I know, that “broken crayons still color”.