One is never really the same after something like this. To say that cancer affects every single aspect of one's life is an understatement. Did I emphasize EVERY SINGLE ASPECT? To have experienced it twice was miserable and sad, to put it lightly. Plus, the resulting lymphedema is a like a cancer party gift I got to take home with me. Lovely. Thanks.
But since all of this nonsense happened, something equally as powerful has also occurred, but on the positive side of the spectrum: the messages. Messages from the Universe is what I call them. Most are loud and clear and in my face. But some are subtle and lovely. Like this one.
I spent Thanksgiving week down on a barrier island off the coast of Texas. Our family has gone there for 22 years now. It is one of the rare places I can go where I don't do anything. I just sit and look at the water. One day on this past visit, I was sitting on the beach with my kids when my son pointed out a bird eating up little goodies off the sand. It was a female grackle. And she was missing a foot.
Now this is a common theme on our annual trek to the Gulf of Mexico to see birds missing feet and even entire legs; it's a rugged coastline. And every time I see one I feel terrible for it, and then suddenly that "missing" leg pops right out of those feathers onto the sand. My family gives me grief about this. But this one was really missing a foot. For real. Knowing what I was thinking, Nic said, "Well, she appears to be doing ok," as she hobbled along eating up little beach bugs. We watched her for a time until she eventually wandered away. Jordan then decided to go upstairs for snacks, and Nic and I sat in silence watching the waves.
About 15 minutes later I happened to look to my left and there was THE SAME BIRD sitting on the back of Jordan's empty chair, holding on with her one little remaining foot. Now this got Nic's attention. She sat for a few minutes and watched us. I couldn't believe she was so close. And then she flew away.
Several hours later, we abandoned our beach chairs and headed upstairs. I took a shower, poured a glass of sangria and wandered out to the balcony and plopped down into a chair overlooking the Gulf. It was then that I noticed a movement to my right. Sitting with her little legs (and one foot) tucked underneath her was my bird! She stood, ruffled her feathers a bit, and sat back down. How did she find me on the 12th floor, out of 200 units, next to a similar building with the same number of condos? How could this be? My mind immediately set out to discount this little miracle: "It just can't be the same bird." But it was. And as a matter of fact, I had never, in all of my 22 years down there, seen a bird sitting on one of the balcony railings, especially not 12 floors up.
She sat and looked at me for quite some time as I pondered what this meant. And then, feeling terrible for her again, I snuck into the kitchen, tore up a tortilla (not that you are supposed to feed wild birds...oops), and put them into a pile near her. She stood, calmly, jumped on her good—and only foot—over to the scraps and gobbled them up. She then looked me straight in the eye and flew away. Whyyyyy do these things happen to me?
Skip ahead now to earlier this week, to an appointment with my therapist who helps me deal with the cancer aftermath. I relayed the story to her, punctuated several times with "What could this possibly mean?"
"Well, I'll tell you what it means," she said. "That bird was you. That bird came to you to show you and tell you that you may be hobbled and injured—both emotionally and physically—from this cancer fallout, but you can still fly. And fly you have."
I realized right then and there, that on a wing and a prayer I will work through the physical pain and recovery, and the emotional crap that makes me just want to roll up into a little ball most days. I will.
And therein lies the message of this post (if you are looking for messages, as I always seem to be). Despite what happens to you, you still have wings to fly. It may not be easy. It may be a long, terrible and grueling recovery, a tough and sad road indeed...but your spirit can still fly.
I simply have to believe it. I believe in the power of my little bird.