I thought my spirit animal was the ostrich until I found out they do not actually bury their head in the sand. I guess that should be obvious. If ostriches did regularly asphyxiate themselves by plunging their heads into sand they would be as extinct as the dodo bird. Now I need a new animal. Horses wear blinders so they are only able to see what a human wants them to see. As majestic as it would be to claim the horse as my animal I do not feel that it is the right fit. A horse does not choose not to see the whole picture. If given the option between only seeing straight ahead or in all directions, I am going to guess the horse would prefer full peripheral vision. The opossum would be in interesting choice. When confronted it has the startling ability to play dead complete with the rank smells of decomposition and the stiff body produced by rigor mortis. Opossums plays dead so well that it can actually be detrimental. if the unfortunate opossum plays dead in the road (I never said the opossum was a smart animal) it can be hit by a car rendering it officially dead. They can also be eaten alive by predators or even buried by a compassionate passersby. I need a spirit animal that hides from danger without the possibility of being buried alive. My animal needs to have the ability to plug its ears and say “Lalalalalalalalalalalala” when confronted with something sinister. Find me that animal and I will adopt it as my own, but until that animal is discovered, I am claiming the turtle as my spirit animal. When the turtle senses danger it can retreat into its shell. Imagine the turtle content inside her little house, blissfully protected from whatever is lurking outside. Hiding out may not be the healthiest solution to all perilous situations, but turtles can live for hundreds of years so I am going to do what turtles do.

After being diagnosed three and a half years ago I learned that burying my head in the sand while wearing self imposed blinders (and doing both of those things while inside a shell) keeps me from the depths of despair. Cancer has made itself at home in my body and i have had to learn how to live a symbiotic relationship with a parasite. To be clear, I do not bury my head in the sand and pretend that the very foundation upon which i stand has not been shifted by this disease. I do not put blinders on and make myself believe that countless doctors appointments are not looming in my future. I do not pull myself into my shell and pretend I do not have stage 4 cancer. Those are all indisputable facts of my life. What i refuse to allow into my life is the hopeless feeling that comes with cancer. It is a weed that when left unchecked will choke out all the light leaving a living corpse just waiting to die. I have had days where the pessimistic side of cancer completely took over. Those were the most painfully desperate days I have ever endured. I was naked in the desolate wasteland of my fractured life, and the poison of self-despair coursed through me. Is that mellow dramatic enough? If not I can throw in some pits of fire and torture. Seriously though, life after hearing the words “you have cancer” can be a living hell. In the last three years I have learned that when the foggy gloom of this disease starts to settle on my day I need to lock my shell and not let despair in. I read a self help book by Brené Brown, I drink some green juice from a Kris Carr recipe, and as Oprah suggested, I turn my wounds into wisdom. Soon after, the fog lifts and the light shines down.

My situation isn’t unique and I am certainly not the first to navigate the turbulent waters of cancer. This is a path that far too many of us are forced to take. One thing I do not understand is that with so many people walking on the same path, millions and millions of us, why does it feel so lonely? I hope that giving a voice to my story will keep the sun shining into my life and bring some light to someone else.

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