Callie and I met online when our babies were tiny. We came and went from each other’s lives over the next few years as she was diagnosed with cancer, we raised our kids, and she was diagnosed with cancer again. Finally, we reconnected, and as it often is, it was like no time at all had passed. She was finishing up a round of chemo, lost her hair, and had plans for the awesome mohawk she was going to rock as soon as her hair came back in.
A few months passed, and her anxiety was at an all time high as scan day approached. It wasn’t good news. The cancer was back, for the fifth time, and it was bad. No longer were they discussing how they could cure it. Now they were discussing how much longer she had to live.
Callie is the consummate planner. Her special skill is bringing people together, and she did just that, setting up a bucket list Facebook group. She asked for help to fund it. And she planned. She planned a weekend away with her closest friends at the ocean. She plans to go on a hot air balloon ride and to Alaska. She’s planning to take her kids to Disneyland, and she will to savor every moment. Because she knows, and has accepted, that she is dying.
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skill Radical Acceptance is “when you accept something from the depths of your soul. When you accept it in your mind, in your heart, and even with your body. It's total and complete.”
Callie has completely accepted that she can’t solve her problem. She can’t cure her cancer. She will go to treatments and remain as healthy as she can, but that isn’t a cure. She has accepted this reality and has made plans to make the rest of her life as full, as memorable, and as loving as she possibly can. She will fill it with light, love, laughter, bawdy humor, terrible jokes, good music, chickens, and, most of all, friends.
Radical accepting her cancer does not mean that she won’t spend every day doing everything she can to fight against it. Accepting her cancer means that she is no longer living in limbo, no longer waiting for the day when it’s ‘cured’ and she can be ‘healthy'; living for an uncertain future. It means that she can embrace the now, and squeeze every second out of every day.