The lotus flower, in addition to being beautiful, grows in bodies of water from the bottom. Through mud and water, the flower leaves float on the surface in hues of pink or white. The concept of resiliency was not new to me. Though young in age, I have felt I have gone through many challenges. None as hard as the year 2021.
The year of misery began with my thirtieth birthday. Not only did I turn the dreaded 3-0 but that same day my car broke down. Not a great start to the year. Shortly after that, I began showing bizarre symptoms I couldn’t explain. Becoming concerned as they continued a few months later, I began seeing doctors. And more doctors. And more doctors. Ultimately leading to the diagnosis of stage II cervical cancer in May.
It is weird to believe that it was not the worst thing to happen that year. A few weeks after my diagnosis I celebrated my son’s second birthday at my house which lead to the bursting of a pipe in my walls that flooded not only my kitchen but my bathroom as well. This led to the deconstruction of the area to get rid of the mold. I was left with no counters, no flooring, and missing half a wall between the bathroom and kitchen.
I had never felt stress like that. And I had not even begun treatment yet. I was worried about construction, my treatment, and my son. I started my chemo and radiation in July and a week later my beloved dog, Cookie, passed away due to her own battle with cancer.
To give a short background, Cookie was the dog I got in college and who had been with me for a decade through many challenging mental health battles. After she passed, I got low. I didn’t want to fight. I wanted to end it all. But then I remembered I was a mom to a beautiful toddler who needed me. I could not give up.
I muddled through treatments with low spirits. The construction finished and my home was put back together. My treatments ended and everything looked ok. But my moods had not improved.
It wasn’t until I attended a conference with a keynote speaker who hit on the concept of changing the words “I have to” into “I get to”. He used examples of “getting to wash the dishes” and so on. His words struck something inside me. In a follow-up meeting with my team after the talk we went around the table saying things we get to do. Most of my colleagues spoke about getting to do laundry because that means they had clothes and other great things. When it got to me I very quietly said “I get to be with my son because the cancer did not win”.
Silence filled the room followed by light applause. I wasn’t exactly looking for that type of response but suddenly my mood clicked. I get to continue my life. I get to continue learning and sharing precious moments with my son. I get to give another lonely dog in a shelter a happy life. I get to live!
And since that conference, every time I feel that I am hitting a wall especially when dealing with doctor follow-ups and tests, I just silently tell myself “I get to do this”.
Rachel Rump lives in South Bend, Indiana. She is a mother of one and a stage II cervical cancer survivor. New to Cervivor, Rachel hopes to connect with others as well as serve as an advocate in the ongoing battle against cancer.