What the hell, Universe!

I have been so impressed with how my friend of over 25 years continues to show up every day and be vulnerable in sharing her story. I invited her to share this particular article on my blog, not only because I think her voice is beautiful, but also because this is what authenticity looks like, and that is a big part of how I coach and who I am. Leading at all levels means bringing our full selves to the work and our colleagues. These are the stories that people are dealing with who you work with, the feelings that run through their body at any time. Being an inclusive leader, cultivating a place for everyone to have a voice, means hearing more of these stories and bringing them to the forefront.

The following is written by: Sarah Budka Ammerman – Human, cancer survivor, olive Hater. 

I’ve spent a lot of time in my adult life joking that I’m probably cursed. Let’s face it, based on my track record, it’s an applicable joke. 

When I was diagnosed with my first cancer, just over ten years ago now, I was so damn scared. God, how I begged the Universe. Please, please no. Not this. But of course the Universe doesn’t work that way, and cancer it was. And even when they told me I was in remission, I was still scared. Anyone who has had cancer knows that the fear never leaves you, not completely. You’re always waiting for that other shoe to drop. The fear just hovers, following you wherever you go. 

And every time they’d say, “We see something, we need you to come in for a biopsy,” or “Hmmm your blood work shouldn’t look like that, I’m ordering more scans,” once again I found myself begging the Universe. Please, please no. Not this. But each time it turned out okay! Until it didn’t. And I found myself saying, f@&k you, Universe!!!!

But here I am again, on the road to healing. Still dealing with lots of side effects and pain. But moving forward in a way many of the other cancer patients I’ve known never will. You see, survivors guilt is a real monster. It makes you question why you lived and others didn’t. And it eats at you because there’s no answer.  No matter how hard you search for one, you won’t find it.  

A few years ago I found myself standing in the grass at a friend’s funeral. We were diagnosed about a week or so apart. We both went through surgeries and treatments that brought us to our knees. We used to text each other late at night when chemo induced insomnia robbed us of our sleep. We were both declared “in remission.”  But then her cancer came back, and it came back with a vengeance. While she suffered, my body got stronger. And as her hair fell out again, mine grew longer. 

During her funeral I found myself mentally relaying every moment to her. “You would have loved the guy they chose to sing in church, his voice was incredible, and he was so cute omg!” Sending her a play by play to wherever she is now. I watched her son place a single pink rose on her coffin and I felt like I might shatter into a million pieces. “We’re all going to eat together now. Your service is over. The flowers were pretty.” 

After my cancer came back, and that other shoe finally dropped, I realized something. That damn survivors guilt has felt so heavy because I’ve been carrying it so long. I think I finally figured out how to put it down. The people I’ve loved that didn’t make it aren’t mad at me for surviving. They are watching me with such joy.  And their memories will never fade as long as I draw breath. I bring them with me everywhere I go.

 You see, it turns out I’m not cursed. I’m a walking miracle. I’m the luckiest girl around. I lived. 

So if you’re reading this, and you’re suffering in some way, or feeling unmoored, and you’ve been yelling at the Universe, begging for a sign that no matter what comes next you will be okay….

This is it.  

Note: Donations to the American Cancer Society are appreciated

Published by rachaelsarahgass

Working mom, wife, friend, sister, organizational psychologist, learner, coach. Kindness Counts. People First. Integrity Always.

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