In October 2010, I learned firsthand how life changes in an instant. My peaceful life was interrupted in an abrupt, unimaginable way when I felt a stabbing pain in my right breast. Immediately, I began the long ride down the twisting and pothole-filled breast cancer road.
I’ve always been a half-full kind of girl. When I was diagnosed, my first thought was: This could have been so much worse. It was at this moment — literally from the time of my diagnosis — that I became conscious of the need for optimism and began looking for (and finding!) silver linings.
Here’s what I know for sure about silver linings:
1. Silver linings come in little and big packages. From watching a hummingbird outside of my bedroom window (because I was too sick to stand) to being cancer free (after enduring the longest and most painful year of my life), silver linings are present. All you have to do is look for them.
2. Silver linings don’t take away the pain, but they do provide balance and perspective. Pain and sadness are important and valuable feelings that need to be processed during and after any rotten experience. The beauty of silver linings is that they don’t take away the rain. Rather, they provide an umbrella.
3. Finding silver linings is a choice. Sometimes it is a really, really hard choice. For example, one day when I was in the bottomless pit of despair and found myself lying on my bathroom floor unable to get the six feet to my bed, I looked for a silver lining. I knew that one would appear. At the moment — the precise moment — I looked for the silver lining, my dear husband and dog came into the bathroom and sat on the floor with me until I could muster the strength to get to my bed.
One silver lining of my breast cancer experience is that I have learned that inexplicable tragedy creates an opportunity to take righteous anger and sadness and turn it into a force for doing good. No, it’s not easy. I would never sugarcoat the fact that it can be hard. But what I do know for sure is that dumbfounding circumstances and even outrage can be redirected and channeled into action that yields positive outcomes. This is the ultimate silver lining.