A week or so before my mastectomy, I had to make an autologous blood donation. The possibility of needing blood during surgery scared me to death. I reassured myself the best I could that I wouldn’t use it and the blood would be available to someone else. I guess it was the word “donation” that gave me that idea.
When I got to the Blood Donor Services Department I found out the blood could only be used by me. It would be destroyed if I did not need it during surgery. I was a bit disappointed my blood would be “wasted” and amazed at how easy it had been to bank it. I told the nurse I would be back after my surgery to donate. In truth, I had wanted to do that simple act of giving for years, but I never made it happen, despite the fact that there is such a need for donors. I had no reason for not doing it, other than that I just didn’t make it a priority. I promised myself I would be back.
Six weeks later, I was recuperating from my surgery and back in the hospital for massage therapy. While waiting for my appointment, I saw a flyer which read, “Win an invitation to the NY Jets Training Camp if you make an appointment to give blood by May 28th at noon.” It was May 28th, 10:30 a.m.; the Blood Donor Services Department was steps away from where I sat. I could make the appointment and possibly win the prize for my son and husband, who are die-hard Jets fans. I went to massage therapy and made it to the office by 11:30 a.m. The nurses were welcoming and asked me if I wanted to be in the raffle. I told them about my husband and son, that my husband was a Jets season ticket holder for over 30 years and how my son, who was 12, would be thrilled to visit the training camp. I also told them about banking blood earlier and wanting to come back to donate. I was so happy to be there, doing what I wanted to do, that I was exceptionally chatty. I left very happy and realized I didn’t need to win to feel great, I already did.
By the time I got home, there was a message that I had won! I was overjoyed and filled with the symbolism of this very meaningful connection. I had finally done something I wanted to do, but had always pushed aside as unimportant. It was an immediate, clear and affirming cancer gift. As I was battling the losses of cancer, I was learning the power of saying “yes.” I was choosing to listen to myself and venture out of my comfort zone. The funny thing is that I always had that choice. It’s just that having cancer gave me the clarity to exercise it.
Survival > Existence,
Image courtesy of Bart Maguire