Eve Ensler, perhaps best known to the world for writing The Vagina Monologues, also wrote the following in her cancer memoir, In the Body of the World:
What if… when you got sick you weren’t a stage but in a process. And cancer, just like having your heart broken, or getting a new job, or going to school, were a teacher? What if, rather than being cast out and defined by some terminal category, you were identified as someone in the middle of a transformation that could deepen your soul, open your heart… And what if each of these things were what we were waiting for, moments of opening, of the deepening and awakening of everyone around us? (p88-89)
When I read this passage in Ensler’s book, I nodded, I smiled, I dog-earred the page, I felt not-crazy. I felt like someone understood why, instead of running screaming crying in the weeks after my breast cancer diagnosis, I flung my arms wide-open, welcoming transformation. Often since my diagnosis, I’ve thought: I want to be changed by this. Not because I long for a better life or a better me. I have a wonderful life and all-in-all, I feel pretty good about me. But because if something as big and surreal as breast cancer is going to land in my 39-now-40-year old lap, there has to be something to show for it. I want there to be something to show for it.
And so here I am, opening, deepening, awakening. (Hoping and trying, at least.)
(In addition to reading Ensler’s book, I encourage you to listen to Krista Tippett’s interview with her.)