When people tell me they’ve been through some really hard, I lean in and listen up, because these are our experienced teachers. They know what they’re talking about. When I met Kara Gorski and heard a bit of her story, I wanted to hear more and more, and so I’m thrilled to welcome her here today to share a bit of her life with us.
Here’s the thing about cancer. It is not a gift. But, it does give you perspective.
On my 35th birthday I had reached a point in my life where I truly HAD IT ALL. A successful working mother, I had lived abroad for several years, earned a Ph.D. in economics and was using it at my TOTAL DREAM JOB in the big city. I was married to a super entrepreneurial guy who adored me and together we had created the two most beautiful baby boys who were 18 months and 2 years old. And, somehow remarkably, I had just sweet talked that awesome man of mine into having a 3rd babe all the while we were plotting to buy a piece of gorgeous land and build a dream home. You hate me, right?
My life truly was perfect. Except for one thing. I was completely miserable.
I was run ragged, exhausted from attempting to show up for everyone (except myself) and still failing to do so. Can you feel me? Have you been there?
So, on my birthday, I asked God for some guidance. I prayed about how to make life a little easier, about how I could eliminate all the stress and be happy. I asked for him to show me a sign.
God usually delivers, even when he doesn’t. And a few days after my big celebration, I mentioned to my husband that I hadn’t received any sign. So, I guessed it was business as usual. A couple hours later, I went to throw on my lounging gear and as I took my top off I brushed up against a hard, little lump in my boob. Hello, sign.
I knew instantly – in that very moment – I had breast cancer. While those who loved me most cautioned my jumping to conclusions, I laid quietly beside my two year old as he drifted to sleep that evening with tears flowing uncontrollably down my cheeks and knowing in my heart that I might have to leave him. Knowing that there was now a very high likelihood I would miss his birthdays, his first day of kindergarten and so much more. I would miss all the big life events and, more importantly, all the little moments in between them.
I knew, because I had been left in the very same way.
It is a terrible thing to suffer the loss of mother at a young age. For years, I had buried my feelings about my own mother’s death and the confusion that surrounded the two years she attempted to survive breast cancer, her body failing ultimately just a few days after turning 39 when I was just 7. But, let me reassure you in the hopes that you do not know, it is a whole other world of hurt to intimately know this exact form of torture and then be the very one to hoist it upon your own children’s hearts.
Over the next two years, I worked my way through chemotherapy, two experimental drugs, and three surgeries.
But, so much more than that, I worked my way through ACCEPTANCE. I left anger and hurt behind. I forgave, not just others but also myself. And, ultimately, my diagnosis gave me permission to step away from the crazy that had been my life. I left the work I loved and created a life I loved instead.
I gave myself a little bit of GRACE.
I traded in the impossible standards that had defined my life for a long embrace with my greatest fears. Because doing so is the only way to become truly fearless.
It isn’t always roses. It is a different kind of crazy. But it is perfectly imperfect.
So, when life knocks on your door with completely life-changing unexpected news (or even just plain old unexpected news), I invite you to give yourself some grace. Hang with it for a bit. Be angry for a moment. You deserve that much. But don’t let the unexpected define you. Grab hold of the fear it dangles before you and walk right through. I know you can.
So far, I have walked both my little boys to their first days of kindergarten.
And also first grade. Just sayin’.
Kara Gorski is a writer, speaker, and breast cancer survivor. Her mission is to encourage women to embrace the perfectly imperfect and create a life they love, leaving impossible standards behind. Her personal and professional journey has been chronicled by Marlo Thomas, featured on The Today Show, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and shared by Dr. Jill Biden. Kara is a contributor to the Huffington Post, MSNBC’s Know Your Value column, NOU Magazine, and Cure Diva among others. You can find her empowering a community of women to successfully navigate everything life hands us with grace and love on her personal blog, Inspired Victory. Get her new 7-step guide to living a grace-filled life here.