September 11th and what it means to me. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about feeling emotional and about being a cancer survivor. I hate saying that, perhaps it’s because I associate survival with guilt or the fact that being a cancer survivor is tantamount to being chased by some invisible monster and hoping you never get caught. For me it’s definitely GUILT.
In 2001, while in Australia to visit friends and family for a month I felt sick the entire time, thinking I had the flu and the 24 plus flight had taken it’s toll making it even harder to recover. When I got home I discovered a lump, not in my breast but under my arm. After a regular check up, I asked the doctor what it was – he joked that it was a bone but maybe I should have a mammogram. My Homeopath finally diagnosed it as a ganglion but I will forever refer to it as my divine intervention.
I’d already had two lumpectomies for benign tumours and was told I had to have regular mammograms. I took that advice and had one every year until 1996 when for the first time in my life I had a woman doctor tell me I was wasting time having them. I stopped getting mammograms, after all I’d been told I was wasting time, making me feel like a naughty little girl for having done so; besides I knew how to check myself after finding the other lumps. This time I resisted a mammogram, insisting on an ultrasound instead – it was less painful.
The ultrasound indicated there was something and they took me into another room to have a needle biopsy, I’d been through that so many times already it didn’t matter. Days later I got a phone call from my doctor telling me it was cancer and that I needed to have surgery as soon as possible. When you live alone and you get devastating news you don’t know what to do, there’s nobody there to talk to so you absorb the shock, I went into auto-pilot mode. I calmly called my sons in Australia to tell them then wondered if I should have. Would they feel as helpless as I did being so far away but they had to know, there was the dog and the house to be taken care of in case…………
My surgery was scheduled for August 12th, my oldest son’s birthday (how ironic) and later postponed to the 17th which caused more stress, that meant it had a week longer to grow inside of me and I wanted it out. Surgery then badda bang, badda bing – I wanted to go home, get on with my life and act like it never happened while nurses kept telling me I didn’t have to be so brave. I wasn’t being brave, I was scared as hell but refused to give in to it.
September 11th I was scheduled to get my patholgy report, they had removed 14 lymph nodes, I would find out whether it had spread. The report was good, I was told that all nodes were clear, the cancer had been removed and all that remained were the scars from the surgery. I raced out of the hospital, almost feeling smug, never wanting to see the inside of a cancer hospital ever again. I felt like I was walking on air as I found my way home, I turned on the tv and there it was.
This was what I saw – absolute horror, the images of planes hitting the towers, people jumping from the towers. I kept changing the channel thinking that it was some sort of bizarre movie being made, it couldn’t be real. Not my beloved New York – NOOOOOOOOOO make it stop I screamed to an empty house. Then the guilt set it – I had just received the happiest news of my life while thousands of innocent people were being killed, lives were destroyed for no reason.
The images were horrific, they took me to a place in my being that I had never been, a dark horrible place where I tried to understand, how something so evil could possibly happen in my lifetime. How could anybody be filled with so much hate? I remembered the images in my head after reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning where he described life in the Nazi death camps, spiritual survival and books about soldiers experiencing P.T.S.D. after the war in Viet Nam. However, I believed that those atrocities could never happen again, surely we had learned from that and we were wiser now.
My life was changed forever on September 11th, 2001, I could no longer live in the little bubble where I was comfortable and felt safe. It made me want to be a better person, to give more without expectation, to be passionate about life, to never take anything for granted again. It also left a deeper scar, it left me untrusting and fearful, afraid to let anyone get too close, I put up a shield so I could never feel that much pain or see such ugliness again. I left the bubble only to build a wall.
It’s taken me 15 years to realize it but two weeks ago I did. I’m no longer afraid to live without the shield, I will no longer let fear of pain rule my life. I know that there will always be hatred, people who don’t care how much they hurt others, and people who relish in doing so. Ego never stops trying to rule us. It will always sadden me when I hear or read irrational, illogical, negative, ungrateful or deceitful words but all I can do is be responsible for me, how I behave and react to those people. If our own children and parents can hurt us then why not the rest of the world but the wall has been torn down.
Let’s all try to be kinder, gentler and more loving to each other so that there can never be another September 11th, 2001.
In the meantime Keep Creating!