It was a beautiful day spring day in 2012. It was a day that started just like any other- with snuggles and smiles with my two, wee precious boys; they were then just 2 and 4 years old. The sun was beaming in through the bedroom window as we sang out our good morning songs. Dad had long since left for work, and the three of us were left to plan out our adventures for the sunny day ahead. And that we did! We all decided that we were well overdue for a visit to the Vancouver Aquarium. The boys were brimming with enthusiasm to see their favourite friends. We even decided on a picnic lunch by the beach to follow!
As we packed up for the day, we also checked off a few tasks on our to do list; we packed 40 loot bags in preparation for a very exciting 5th birthday party soon ahead for my oldest, we pulled out suitcases for our highly anticipated, month long family holiday to the lake soon approaching, in fact just days away, and we also confirmed our attendance for the kindergarten orientation day that would kick off this new chapter ahead... we had so much on the go, and so much to look forward to!
But cancer takes no regard for our many plans, hopes, dreams, or goals ahead. It storms in without warning, and when least expected. I was 35 years old. I was climbing the ladder of life. I was very happily married. I was the passionate doting mom, still nursing my youngest. I had lived a life passionate about health wellness, having even established a very successful career in this very arena as a thriving sports chiropractor, owned and operated my own well renown multidisciplinary health centre. I was seemingly the poster child for health and wellness. I inspired my community to live an active, healthy lifestyle and I certainly practiced what I preached. I was very fit, hiked every mountain and soaring down them all on my skis. Cancer was NOT on my agenda.
But we never did make it to the beach for our picnic lunch that day, and we never did get to go to the lake for that month long family trip. I didn't even get the chance to attend that kindergarten orientation, nor did I even get to attend my son's 5th birthday celebration.
As we drove to the Aquarium, we had popped in quickly at the local lab so that I could have a very routine lab drawn as part of the regular management of a long standing, very low grade, thyroid condition that I had developed during the pregnancy of my first born son. Afterwards, we drove straight to the Aquarium. We had literally just passed through the entry gates. The boys were now running ahead as fast as their little legs could go. They had decided that their first stop would be to try to spot the octopus! And then my phone rang.
I nearly didn't answer the call as reception in the Aquarium is terrible. But on the third ring I did answer and I was immediately met with a sense of panic and great urgency. "Is this Erica Harris" she asked? "This is the lab calling. We have your results and you need to go immediately to the nearest emergency room and avoid all public places. Do you understand?" "Do you understand?" she repeated.
I absolutely did not understand. I was certain it was a huge mistake. I had literally just left the lab only minutes before. I professed that there was NO way that would have my results back that fast and I was convinced that they had mixed up my information with that of another. I assured her that I was in fact very, very well; so well in fact that I was even standing in the most public of public places at that very moment and was 100 percent well! I was absolutely stunned.
Sure I had been tired, but I truly assumed all young moms were just as tired. Sure my oldest had asked months before, "mama, why do your eyes always look so tired now?'. I certainly felt it but again, while chasing two young boys and still nursing my youngest, I truly assumed that all young moms were just as tired. And sure, yes, I had had night sweats; but I also had them in my early 20s and they were then chalked up to being hormonal changes from exercising too much. I assumed the current sweats were also hormonally related as I was still nursing my youngest and the sweats seemed to coincide with my cycle. I also had developed this new, rather thick eczema on both hands, and oddly on both eyelids, for about a year beforehand. Both Dermatology and Naturopathic physicians attributed the rash to associated with some new allergy. But in retrospect, I think it was my body screaming for help.
I hadn't heard it because I hadn't taken the time to listen. I thought I was invincible because of the healthy lifestyle I had chosen for myself. I felt immune to cancer, to hardship. Blindsighted, completely blindsighted.
Little did I know then, that the life I once knew would never come to return again. Little did I know then, that I would become a permanent resident of our province's largest hospital for years to come. Little did I know then, all of the odds that would soon be stacked against my survival. Little did I know then, the long road that was to lie ahead or the Armageddon of relentless, seemingly insurmountable feats that were in store. Little did I know then, that I would soon come to hear the dire words, "you have 2 months to live" and worse yet, even be denied all further medical treatment, aside from palliative care. Little did I know then, that I would come to breathe through the lungs of another or have the blood of another soar through every part of me. Little did I know then that my blood type would come to change from O- to A+. Little did I know then that my once happy marriage would end in divorce.
But the harder you fall, the higher you come to bounce on the rebound. Little did I know then of the immense strength I had deep within. Little did I know then, I would come to have the ability to come to master principles of resilience, resolve, positivity, fortitude and gratitude; all tried, tested and true, over and over and over again. Little did I know then that cancer would empower me to achieve greatness through greater levels of happiness, health and success than I ever could have ever imagined possible! I "get" to be mom to the world's two most resilient, empathetic and amazing mini me. How lucky am I??? Despite the very obvious hardships, I wholeheartedly feel infinitely blessed for being chosen to navigate this journey and to get to serve in the ways I do now.
Tomorrow is not a guarantee for any of us. Go home and hug the ones you love a tighter today. Rise to the gift of today to live your brightest and richest life, with no regrets, owning every single second of every minute, no matter what comes your way! Coronavirus, cancer, divorce, whatever it may be... hurt is hurt, pain is pain, grief is grief. Let's take back the power and Rise Today as we each walk the paths of our lives.