We said goodbye to 2013 a couple of days ago. For me, it was a bittersweet good-bye; sad because I have always been emotional with them, and happy because 2013 was a year of endings and new beginnings. And that type of year is filled with sadness, hardship, effort and joy. The roller coaster year, as I like to call it. A year of learning and growth.
So....as I rang in the New Year, it was with feelings of melancholy and relief...although it was with much more of the latter. It's strange how certain events can take up so much room in your mind and in your life. It was three years ago today during a cold (although not as cold as it is right now!) and lazy post holiday day, that I got the phone call. Two of the directors from my office e-mailed me in the morning, wanting a conference call. I was on sick leave, recovering from an operation that I had in late November; one of the many follow up surgeries following my double mastectomies.
Being the consummate professional, I immediately thought of the items I would list as goals for the new year. As I got on the call, we started the usual banter about how nice the holidays were, and how much we appreciated our down time. Our jobs were very demanding, and the hours were long. One of my colleagues on the call was a woman, whose mother had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. We had spoken at times over the past months about her mother, and I had been open in talking about my own experiences with her.
It didn't take long to figure out that the call was not regarding our future plans, but regarding my future plans specifically. I was being fired.
And thus started the year of 2013. As with a cancer diagnosis, your mind goes into a sort of shock when you first hear the words nobody ever wants to hear. The same sort of questions go through your mind...What did I do to deserve this? Why me? Why now? Then it rolls into more thoughts, like: What will I do? How am I going to break the news to my family? I have three girls that I have to provide for, and a roof to keep over their head. Poor me....poor me....poor me......The feeling sorry for myself phase was intertwined with feelings of anger. I had given so much of myself to this job.
Many hours away from the family, lots of high pressure situations and stress, many yesterday deadlines, all whilst I endeavored to provide leadership to those working in my division. But most of all, I had never let them down. I took only six weeks off following my double mastectomies, and worked through eight rounds of chemotherapy, never skipping a beat.
And then you get to a fork in the road. That same one I reached after my cancer diagnosis. You can call it quits and do nothing but feel sorry for yourself, or you can decide that you're better than that and move on. Choosing to fight is not always easy. Any cancer survivor can relate to that. I picked myself up, shook off the dirt and rummaged around for my pride. First I did things that I hadn't done in a very long time. I took a few weeks to visit my parents who were down in Florida (yes!). When the snow started to melt I took my pent up energy outside and picked up years of leaves in my large, tree infested backyard. My garden never looked so beautiful!
And yes, I went back to work. To a position that has a few less hours away from family and me time (even if I am still working more than I thought). To a position where I am appreciated and have a title of prestige (the title's not so important to me), and to a new job where I have met new people and have made a new friend; someone who I have felt I have known for a long time (even though we just met).
Similar to cancer survivorship, you also figure out who your real friends are. After working for over twenty years in the same profession; nine of which were with the group of people I dedicated the most to (six of those years were as a cancer patient and cancer survivor), only a handful of them have called to see how I was doing.
All this growth is in the name of making room for better experiences and new, and more positive people, to enter my life. My cancer diagnosis taught me many lessons on how to deal with life. I was able to use this knowledge in dealing with 2013. And, as with cancer, had this not happened, I would not be in the place I am now. Standing proud and tall, with a few visible scars on my body, and some that nobody can see.
Oh...and a huge smile on my face.