Fighting Pretty through COVID-19
What everyone in the world is facing right now feels eerily similar to first being diagnosed with cancer. The security blanket that we all take for granted - food on the table, a steady job, health, a routine- have suddenly been ripped away. We have ample time on our hands which leads to a spiral of worry, fears, doubt, anxiety, and worst case scenario future-casting. We’re waiting for the final results from our scans. We’re waiting for the final diagnosis. We’re waiting for the answers from an expert, and trying to politely ignore the opinions of everyone else.
If there is one thing I learned during my cancer treatment, it was to trust my heart. To listen to my heart beat. To literally feel and hear my body still existing, still breathing, still living. Because there was an internal and external war going on around me. Everything was in upheaval, and I could no longer count on the small, daily reminders that everything was going to be OK. But I could count on my heart. Because there it was, beating steadily, a constant drum.
I won’t waste your time with the platitudes that life will be OK. Because in the here and now, maybe life isn’t OK. You don’t have to pretend to be happy. You shouldn’t judge yourself for wanting to throw a plate against the wall. What the world is experiencing, and what cancer patients are all too familiar with, is the shift in security and uncertainty. The transition to finding a new normal. A fluidity of labels. It’s all uncomfortable and difficult and maddening. To break down what we know as our routine, our security, and our rationale is something we see others do, but think we’ll never have to face ourselves.
What I will tell you is this: it’s OK to just be. It’s OK to put your kids in front of the TV while you let out a good cry. It’s OK to feel heartbroken. It’s OK to feel all the feelings. It’s OK to not want to talk about the pandemic. It’s OK to set boundaries. I hope you can feel and do without judgment-- of yourself and others. Because we are all just trying to be. We are all in the beginning stages of being diagnosed with cancer. And it’s an ugly stage. It’s where everything gets ripped apart. But it won’t be forever. There will be more stages, more clarity, and more hope. There will be people that ban together to help. There will be community built from tragedy. There will be heroes and helpers. There will be grace given and received.
What I would tell the world right now: look to your heart. Hear your heart. Feel your heart. You are here. You are breathing. That rhythmic and powerful thump-thump of your heart means that you are alive. And that, my friends, is something to be grateful for.
Rachel Peterson is a breast cancer survivor on a mission to share her story to help empower the cancer community. She is a regular contributor to Medium and Fighting Pretty, known for her "Breast Kept Secrets." Follow her on Instagram at @rachelmpete. Photo by: Ivory House Photography
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