Did Cancer Push PAUSE or FAST FORWARD?

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I’ve been having one of those weeks where I feel like I’m not doing enough. I don’t mean on a daily to-do list scale, but on a BIG PICTURE LIFE scale. I just had a birthday, and it was an undeniable reminder that time keeps rolling along, no matter what life is asking of us.

Before October 18th of last year, things were moving along exactly to plan. I had just gotten married, had acting opportunities on the horizon, had finally decorated our apartment in the way I had always dreamed. I felt like my life was finally in my control. I was exercising, eating well, and was generally feeling on top of the world. My day-to-day ‘problems’ were superficial, and my ‘struggles’ were of the privileged variety. The night of Tommy’s diagnosis, I (laughably) remember being frustrated about an overcrowded audition when we got THE call and ‘frustrations’ such as those melted away forever.

When cancer comes to your door, life seems to stop, but time doesn’t. It’s been a year since the night that froze me in my path, seized my heart, and took my breath away. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, but most times October 18th of last year feels like another lifetime, another Jessie.

We’ve now been fighting for over a year, and are not yet finished. I’ve grown, stretched, deflated, inflated, wept, laughed, tried, failed, gave up, found my footing, reached, missed, hoped, yelled, cheered, felt forsaken, felt empowered, and more a million times over again. How is it, that after all this, I find myself hosting a pity party. Feeling like I’m not where I wanted to be by now. Feeling like I haven’t accomplished ‘enough’ or enough of the ‘right things’. How did life keep moving while we fought this monster? Why couldn’t it have paused long enough to let us handle cancer, and then pick up where we left off- as post-honeymoon, tanned newlyweds? All my friends are getting to live this blissful season, why does it feel like we had it snatched away?

In the midst of this pouting, I realized I was looking at it all wrong. Life had not skipped us. Life had moved us, lifted us, graced us, and filled us. Was I dealing with decorating woes? Career disappointments? Newlywed endeavors? No. AND I AM SO GRATEFUL. Am I living the life I expected? An easy road leading to my ‘goals’? No. AND I AM SO GRATEFUL. Has my world been widened, my heart expanded, my will tested, my strength tried, and my life flipped upside down? Yes. AND I AM SO GRATEFUL.

Do I wish we could have taken the easy road? In all honesty, of course, I do. Do I wish Tommy could have been spared this trauma? I would take it away from him in a heartbeat. But this experience and circumstance have unarguably changed my life for the better.

This morning, I made myself write down everything I’ve accomplished this year. List it out, in black and white, placed right in front of my face. And honestly, by the end I was crying. Laughing through tears at the hilarity of my pity party. I thought life had been passing me by, but I have been riding the wave of life to the fullest. I have grasped opportunities I never would have dreamed of. I took risks I never thought I had the time or ability to try. I accomplished goals that were far from my original plan but were leading me to a life that fulfills every corner of my heart.

Cancer doesn’t pause your life. Time doesn’t stop, and neither do you. If you wake up after it’s ‘finished’, and feel like you lost a chunk of your life, LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE DONE! The appointments you attended, the decisions you made, the surgeries you took on, the treatments you overcame, the impossible mornings you pushed through, the sleepless nights you outpaced, and the people you’ve inspired! Whether you’re a caregiver or a patient, you’ve moved mountains. The growth you have made is worth decades of ‘normal years’. The perspective and personal development are on a scale that could never have been taught or bought. THIS is your enough. So you didn’t add a line to your resume, WHO CARES. You added heart to your life and courage to your journey. And that is absolutely enough.

Jessica Walker