A true inspirational story of breast cancer survival ...
“So many of us look at life through a peephole, but what we don't realize is there is a window to life… open the curtains and live fully."
I sat in the cold hospital room. The grey curtains covered the window in front of me. I couldn’t see outside. All I could see were dull plastered walls and clinical white floors. I didn’t care. The nurse administering the chemo looked at me and smiled. It was my first session, and her eyes told me this wasn’t going to be an easy journey.
Just forty years old. A few weeks earlier, I had booked an appointment with my doctor for a ‘routine’ breast examination (who even made the word ‘routine’ up). At that time, everything in my life felt routine. I was overweight and over-stressed.
I was living in the shadow of happiness. Really, I had a false sense of happiness; the idea that was beaten into my mind from childhood - that if you are successful and have a white picket fence, then nothing else mattered … What a wake-up call I got. One that forever changed my life.
The Wake-Up Call
I expected the breast examination to just be routine. No problem. I was young, and there was no incidence of cancer in my family for at least five generations. My doctor sat across from me; he looked concerned. “Chaya, we need to do a biopsy. Something doesn’t look right”. Two days later, I got the call. It was my doctor. “Chaya, you need to come in.”
THE BIOPSY revealed that I had stage two, grade three, breast cancer. WHOA… WHO? NOT ME. NEVER. I had no idea that MY JOURNEY INTO LIFE would BEGIN AT THAT very MOMENT.
"I looked at the lady sitting across from me. She had an energy that could bring the whole room into sadness. "
I sat there in that hospital room, looking around at the other cancer patients. We were all going through the same ordeal. Tired, stressed, sick, dying.
Then there was this moment. I looked up and saw a sliver of light streaming through an opening in the curtains. I thought to myself, “I’m not dead. I'm alive! And while I’m alive, I must LIVE!”
I looked at the lady sitting across from me. She had an energy that could bring the whole room into sadness. Her Head slumped down, and her whole body was saying to the world that “it was over”. I wanted to shout out. “Look lady, right now we are alive. Let’s live while we are alive!” After my infusion, I walked over to her. I bent down, looked into her sad eyes and whispered in her ear. “It’s not over. This is only the beginning.”
I had no idea how important those words would be. Until this day, I live my life with that sentence in mind. Because I believe it.
Before I left the hospital room, I walked over to the window and slowly pulled back the curtains with what energy I had. Light came streaming into the room. Hallelujah! My journey into life had begun.
Journey Into Life - Not Without Challenges
There were so many challenges to overcome on my journey into life. There was the …
Chemotherapy, and the chemotherapy with a broken port that burned my skin
and almost killed me,
and the radiation treatment and a bilateral mastectomy,
and many missed baseball games for my son,
and a crumbling marriage that wouldn’t last the battle with me.
So much pain, so much struggle. But I came out of the battle with a clear sense of who I am. I wanted to live a fulfilled life. It was time to live fully.
As my chemotherapy and radiation treatment came to an end, I left America and made a move to Israel. I had a dream to live in Israel, so I did. I moved to a small beach town in the North. Later, I longed for more adventure. I longed to live where I truly belonged, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Everyday An Adventure
Now every day of my life is an adventure. Ordering coffee and speaking to interesting people is an adventure. Going to the post office and finding new doctors (most of the time in my new language) is an adventure.
I'm single. I'm dating with my new body, and it's so much fun and definitely an adventure. New friends. Tons of beach time and meeting new people. I have four jobs, and together, they allow me to have freedom. One of my jobs is as a Zumba-style dance teacher. For me, dance and travel have been great healers. I'm even doing comedy here and there.
I feel more alive post-cancer than I have ever felt. Mainly because I refuse to look through that peephole that many of us have been conditioned to live … well, until something happens that moves us to open the curtains and see life in full view.
Yes, I have faced many challenges along the way, but these setbacks make me feel alive and bring adventure and healing into my life. That’s the lens I see my challenges through. I AM DETERMINED to see the beauty in everything because my eyes are wide open.
As I live my life in fullness, I receive constant reminders that I am a survivor. But more importantly, there is this energy that says, “Girl ... YOU MUST LIVE. YOU MUST LOVE AND YOU MUST JUST BE UNAPOLOGETICALLY YOU.“