by Christie Perkins
Cancer has changed me.
Before cancer I would grocery shop. Hustle, bustle, grumble, toss. It was just shopping, right? But, really, the thing I liked most about shopping was the people I would brush against. When I think about it, this random people connection is really the only perk to grocery shopping. I would stand behind my cart and voluntarily hand out smile samples to random nameless go cart racers.
I liked greeting strangers. And to the familiar faces I would give a hey-holler. Personally, I like it when people want to see me, so I assume others like it when I see them. So I ding them with a smile.
It’s simple. But, it’s what I do when I shop. It’s how I shop.
Shop, Drop, and Roll?
A couple of weeks back, when I grasping the reality that I have metastatic breast cancer (breast cancer that’s on a field trip to various parts of my body) things changed for me. Well, lets get specific here: shopping changed for me.
I found myself at Walmart shortly after receiving word that I had stage 4 cancer. Maybe it was bad timing just after being thudded with the life altering news, but I felt strong enough when I left. I’ve got this. Yes, I was handling things fine. Besides I knew all of the testing was all pointing to this news anyway so I was prepared.
But who knew it would take me off-guard in the most mundane tasks… like grocery shopping.
Yep, grocery shopping folks.
The ride leading up to the store had me all glossy eyed. Now, you must know, I love music and have it on frequently. It is my companion as I work, when I drive, and when I relax. This day the words to the songs unraveled and touched my heart. Even upbeat, dink-around songs have some hidden heartfelt message in them. Who knew? I was fighting tears as I pulled off the exit ramp and headed to the grocery store.
I’ve got this. I pulled into the parking stall, took a breath, put my swag on, and walked in. With shopping cart in tow I attempted to check off my simple list. But I soon found myself alone on the Valentines aisle.
…And the radio was on. Again. Who was in charge of this oldies heart throbbing station anyway? And since when does Walmart play oldies? In fact, since when do they ever play music? Obviously, I’ve never noticed before. But my senses are much more in tune these days.
My own serenade played on that Valentine’s aisle. A song about life, and love, and loss.
So yep, here I was fighting tears again. In public. Suddenly I found myself on a speed shopping trip. I wanted out. It was suffocating being in this big… spacious building. And soon my shopping trip was no longer a lolly, jolly, moment.
And no, no, no… I was not feeling sorry for myself I just have never heard a song that could spill my heart all over the Valentines aisle.
Clean up on aisle 3.
But the thing that bothered me most was that I wasn’t acting myself. Instead of smiling and being friendly with others I found that I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. The sample smile station was closed today. A major remodeling was taking place. I couldn’t look at strangers and flash them a smile. Not today. That really bothered me. This was not me.
Swivel, lurch. I dodged three people I knew (sorry if you were one of those friends that found me wanting to gawk awkwardly at the ceiling, or cart curtailing down random aisles I could care less about). This was not me at all.
And it bothered me.
It bothered me all night long. That night in prayer I asked that cancer wouldn’t change me. Yes, I see that it will change me (that is the purpose of a trial) but I didn’t want it to change what was good about me.
So, the very next attempt I found myself headed to the grocery store with a prayer to cushion me. I know, it’s weird to pray that I can get through grocery shopping with a smile. But, I needed to show the cancer demon who was boss.
And a little sunshine entered my soul. I was me. I handed out smiles and was genuinely happy to greet strangers. Because I was genuinely happy to be there. The meaning of life has changed. Today is my gift and I’m going to explode it with the best I can be, even in a simple grocery shopping excursion. I’d say the remodel turned out to be a great investment.
Boo-yeah! Who’s boss now?
Overcome Your Trials
Yes. Cancer has changed me. In some ways I’m still the same old me. Yay. I still watch sunsets, vacuum the car not nearly enough, and make toothpaste sculptures from not putting the lid on the toothpaste (ok, how many readers dropped out for that one?). But, in most ways it’s made me better than I ever would have been. I’m better because the meaning of life has changed. Every day is my gift. How cool is that?
When you master something small in your life don’t let it go. Keep it. Don’t lose it in a weak moment. (And yes, I believe it’s okay to have weak moments.) But in the big picture, don’t let life’s circumstances alter who you are. Nothing in this world can change who you are, only you can do that.
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