This photo came up on my Facebook news feed today. It was taken 8 years ago, almost exactly one week before I found out I had stomach cancer and my life was about to change forever.
Knowing what I know now, what would I go back and tell my past self? So I decided to write a letter. I hope that by opening up my heart it will also touch yours.
Dear Past Self,
This is going to be hard.
Everything that has happened to you has brought you to this very moment in time. You are about to embark on the hardest thing that has ever happened to you. If you can go back through your life and remember the deepest hurt, most excruciating physical and mental pain then times that by about 100, but you’re going get through this.
You are going to lose friends.
You will be upset and disappointed beyond belief. Some people that you thought would support you and your family don’t and some that you least expected will show you unbelievable kindness and compassion. This will clearly define the meaning of true friendship. You will lose many but the ones you gain will be genuine and reflective of your new life.
You will no longer live to eat but eat to live.
You have to learn to eat again. It’s going to be months and months of nausea. Excusing yourself from public social gatherings. Crying in pain on the couch while the solids find their way down your intestines. Finding ways to hide your discomfort when you are out. But you will find a new love and appreciation for food. No longer your comfort ‘go to’ or the thing that brings you hating yourself for your weight gain. This new relationship makes you work in harmony with what you eat. You have to listen to your body, or it will reject anything that you force into it. Finding solutions around food intolerance’s and portion size that you haven’t experienced before is going to take some mental and physical tolls. Today is not forever. It will improve, it just takes time.
You are going to lose a lot of weight and I mean a lot.
You are probably going to kick yourself for wishing to lose weight. You got your wish but not the way you thought it was going to happen. You know those chubby cheeks, those voluptuous breasts and wobbly belly you hate so much when you look in the mirror – you are going to lose it all. In fact, by the time you have finished you are going to have to change everything in your wardrobe, even your shoes. It was nice at first but when those curves that define you as a woman start to disappear even you will be shocked at your appearance. You will actually walk past a window and smile at the person reflecting back at you because for a split second you no longer recognize the girl looking back was you. You are left with a skeletal body, hanging skin and very low self-esteem. You will gain some weight back, but it will takes years. You will have plastic surgery to try and help get back that figure that you used to hate. It takes many years to learn to love yourself again and to stop trying to be physically perfect, but you get there eventually.
Stop waiting for a miracle, you are the miracle.
You needed to grieve the loss of your father. You needed to grieve the loss of your unborn baby. You need to grieve the life that you used to live, the friends you used to have, the food you used to eat. Life is not the way you thought it was going to be and let’s be honest, where you find yourself right now, you are not happy. You have been searching for years and you still lack the peace and joy that you have been looking for. You need to be able to take this time to let it all go. This is an opportunity to start again. Redefine your life in a way where you can find purpose and laughter. Let everything that comes up – out. Stop justifying your self-sabotaging behavior and stubbornness and let it all go. Take each day as it comes. There are still quite a few more years of surgeries ahead and you have a long way to go before you have fully recovered from each procedure. Please know that you are strong, and you are not finished yet. You are a walking miracle and I never want you to forget that.
This is not going to cause a ripple but a tidal wave.
You are going to go through this alone and it is going to have such a profound impact on you that you never ever want anyone to have to do this by themselves. What you experience is going to be shared with others on such a huge scale that you cannot even contemplate at this time how much it will affect the lives of others. You are going to have such an amazing impact in the lives of the people you talk to, the people you connect with and the friendships that you make. Your candidness and humor is genuine and refreshing. You don’t ever have to make anything up because you live it every day. Share your story, because you are the hope that people are looking for. You will find like-minded souls that will support you in your efforts. You will make heart connections with the kindest most vulnerable people and you will lose some precious friendships to this horrible disease. Never ever doubt that one person can make a difference, because you will.
I want you to be able to you to feel into the pain. I want you to experience the loss. I want you to cry until there is nothing left. I want you to become raw and vulnerable. Not because I don’t like you, but because I really really love you and you need to go through this experience to let go of the past. I want you to open up into your heart and allow the love to come in. It is not until you are stripped completely bare of everything you think you ever were because that is when you ask with a purity of heart and clarity of soul ‘Who am I?’ – and that is where the power lies.
Your Future Self