In 2013 when I was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer, the year 2018 popped up in my head. Why? Because as I sat in the waiting room at Hilman Cancer Center, I was reading a pamphlet on colon cancer and a little chart caught my eye. It was the 5 year survival rates for people with my diagnosis. And the news wasn’t good. 13%. Sitting in a cancer center, surrounded by elderly people who didn’t look so hot, feeling perfectly fine, but knowing this horrible disease was eating its merry way through my body – I felt the air rush out of my lungs. It hit me. I really was probably going to die from this.
30 minutes later, we met the guy who everyone told me would make me feel better – my soon to be oncologist. And he made me feel worse. He barely looked at me, and he asked me “Do you want to know what your chances are?” I looked him square in the eye until he met my gaze and I said “Absolutely not.” Because I already knew. And I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop crying if he said it out loud. The numbers and words on a pamphlet are one thing. Coming out of a very educated man in a white coat – it felt like they would be solidified, permanent, true.
We went home and I cried the whole way. But when we got home, I was done crying. I was determined. Determined not to let the pamphlet or the guy in the white coat (who I mentally fired during the car crying) or the odds have any more power over me than simply being numbers. I mean, what were the odds that I would be getting colon cancer at the age of 35. One in many, many thousands? Odds mean nothing. Not because they aren’t real or accurate. It’s just that they really don’t matter. My story is my story. It’s unique. Individual. Specific.
At the age of 9, I walked out of my house and it literally blew up 2 minutes later. I was stupid and went surfing in a hurricane in 1996, got sucked under water for a very long time, but somehow popped back up, a hundred yards down the beach from where they were looking for me. In 2000 my house caught on fire while I was sleeping in it and an accidentally set alarm clock woke us up to black smoke so thick we couldn’t see. Another minute and we would have been gone, said the fireman. A gas leak in my next house brought a dozen fire trucks and EMS vehicles – we almost hadn’t called because we weren’t sure if it was a problem. The point is, I should have been dead a few times, but God has seen fit to keep me around. My number simply isn’t up until He says so. I’ve learned to trust that, and not the odds.
I just celebrated my 40th birthday. A bunch of my favorite people gathered around and told funny stories and raised their glasses, basically to the simple fact that I’m still here. I couldn’t be more grateful. New adventures are in store this year, I assure you. This is a year where we are turning to new chapters. New ways of growing and expressing the unique gifts God has given me. New challenges. New people. New places. Leaving comfort zones and diving in. God is making all things new. A game changer, He is, indeed. Change is scary. Both those who resist change get left behind. I liken it to jumping out of a plane. Knowing it’s crazy. But trusting the parachute is in perfect working order and falling into the great, empty sky. I’ve done this – I was just barely 16 and used my older cousin’s driver’s license. It was insane. And you know what? It was really, really fun. Are you with me? Let’s go.