A few weeks ago I shared something incredibly personal with the community through my column. I hoped that in sharing my experience, it might resonate with as well as encourage others in their own personal journey.
To sum up, I had an irregular mammogram, which prompted more mammograms, an ultrasound, and finally a biopsy.
The results: benign. I have to return in six months for another mammogram as there’s a chance they missed what they were looking for, but I’m going to simply accept the answer as benign until a doctor tells me differently.
So while I’m grateful for the benign diagnosis, there was a long gap between the answer I’d been praying for and within that fearful void of the unknown, I found myself doing a lot of introspection. I was warmed and surprised by the outpouring of love and support I received via text message, Facebook, and phone calls. I was truly humbled by the love; to you all, I offer a heartfelt thank you!
Even though I tried to remain positive and push the fear away, it remained, like a festering infection beneath the surface, reminding me at odd moments that everything I’d ever known could change in an instant.
It was hard to concentrate; my thoughts were often scattered, which was a challenge seeing as I had a book to finish.
However, amid all the worry and turmoil I found myself questioning the quality of my life. Was I living a full and happy life? No. I was living a stressful, harried life.
So I decided, no matter the diagnosis, I was going to change how I operate.
Easier said than done.
Old habits — bad habits — are incredibly difficult to break.
I realized I was going to have to make serious strides in the right direction if I didn’t want to end up in the same place on a different date on the calendar.
First and foremost, I needed less stress.
So, I took steps to cut back on my work schedule. As much as I need a break, this wasn’t a decision I arrived at lightly.
Part of my identity has been wrapped up in being a reporter. I’ve been a journalist for almost 16 years and essentially, I grew up with the news. I count myself incredibly lucky to have such memories of working in the newspaper industry before we were slave to computers for everything. I love that I was given the opportunity to learn all aspects of the business, from advertising to paste-up, to writing and the press room. I laugh at some of the adventures I’ve been on in the commission of chasing down a story (I was one of the first reporters who had the opportunity to write about Cary Stayner) and I’ve met some lifelong friends through my association with the news (Vena, Mary, Christie, the list goes on!) but there comes a time when your fire starts to sputter because of whatever reasons and that’s when you know you need a change.
Add in the additional pressure of a potentially life-changing illness and swift clarity follows.
Thus far, this year has been filled with incredible highs and lows. I wouldn’t trade a second of the lows, because if I did, I wouldn’t know how to appreciate the highs.
And that’s what I’ve come away with from this experience: gratitude.
Each night I start my prayers with, “I’m happy and grateful…” but until I went through my most recent travails, I’d never truly embraced those words.
Now I do — I feel it in my bones and it sings in my heart.
Lastly, I feel a debt of humility to those who were not as fortunate as me in their diagnoses. I never truly understood the pain, the horror, or the fear of cancer until I faced the possibility that I might have it. I never saw myself so clearly as when I saw myself through the lens of someone who has walked in my shoes and come out the other side, stronger and wiser.
I’m ready to make positive changes.
I’m ready to live a full and happy life!
Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.