A Message From Tiffany:
I love cancer. Love it. I know, weird right? Let me explain.
I was smacked in the face with Stage 4 Colon Cancer, at age 38. It was immediately, as you might expect, terrifying, numbing, shocking, unnerving, paralyzing fear. Overwhelming stress. Questions. More questions. Research. More research. Scans. Tests. More Scans. More tests. It completely took over my world.
I felt myself slipping into sadness. Although I knew it was important to feel your feelings rather than keeping them bottled up, I was determined to never stay stuck in low gear. I needed something to pull me out of the depths of despair.
I turned to dancing. Silly, crazy, stupid dancing. Bad dancing makes me laugh. Always. I asked my husband to film me doing it, to force me to get into the moment and really commit. We have a bunch of footage of me dancing before surgery, after scans, in my hospital gown, while connected to my chemotherapy. I also used this tactic when I was alone. If I felt myself backsliding while at work, I would scurry to the bathroom and dance in the stall.
I talked to the world about what was happening in my life. If someone had questions, I was honest about it. I wasn’t embarrassed: I was up front and frank. I started a blog and let people peek behind the scenes of my once incredibly secretive life. I was now an open book, with nothing to hide. I let everyone inside. I also shirked any sense of being a burden to people or a worry to others. If I needed help, I asked for it. If someone offered assistance, I accepted it.
The result? The entire world seemed to rally around me and lift me up higher than I had ever been in my life. All of my needs were met and I have never felt more supported. I was completely enveloped in a giant bubble of love. I connected with new friends and reconnected with old friends. People went out of their way to tell me how much I mean to them; that I am important in their lives; that I matter.
I found myself riding a high that I had never before experienced. I was euphoric. I may have been nauseous from the chemotherapy or in pain from a surgery but I was enjoying life; savoring every second. I was completely and totally in the moment. No worries about what tomorrow would bring. No regrets over the past. No pressure to do more than I could do or be more than I already was. I was exquisitely present: the most present and grounded I had ever been in my life. And joyful! Let’s not forget joyful!
Now, was this the dancing? My sense of humor? My willingness to let others in? Sure, that was a huge part of it. Attitude in the face of adversity is a key but it would be disingenuous to not thank cancer for the roll it played as the catalyst for the best year of my life. I have been more than touched by cancer, I have been blessed by cancer. Cancer made me aware of all that I have. Cancer gave me perspective. Cancer walked into my life, grabbed me by the shoulders and woke me out of the sleepwalk state that characterized my first 38 years. It’s like I saw the world for the first time with the eyes of a newborn baby. Such beauty. Such peace. Such a gift.
So, cancer, I thank you and I love you. You are an AWESOME teacher and the best wake up call a girl could ever get. Of that, I am POSITIVE.
Tiffany Staropoli has been blogging steadily since she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer in May of 2013. Putting the “mission” in “remission,” Tiffany has dedicated herself to her website, http://www.tiffanystaropoli.com. The site provides insight and guidance for individuals experiencing challenges, change and chaos through weekly newsletters and free resources.
Photos courtesy of Tiffany Staropoli