THREE WORDS. That’s all it took to cause my head to reel and knees to buckle. December 23, 2010. I answered my ringing phone and heard my surgeon’s voice on the other side. “You have cancer.”

How could this happen to me, someone who ate the right things and exercised daily? My mind panicked and thrashed about. “What now?” He threw out frightening words like mastectomy, radiation, chemo. My brain spit them all out, stamped unacceptable. This is not happening!

When anything majorly disrupts my life, I try to make some sense of it—stuff happens for a reason, something to be learned. In trying to make sense of this bump in my road, I had hypothesized reason after reason, but nothing ever took root. Five months later, I had Oprah on the TV as I got a few things done in the kitchen. This was Oprah’s finale show, so I stopped and pulled up a barstool. When she started talking about having a life purpose, my ears really perked. Then she said something that felt like she was speaking especially to me:

“The only time I’ve ever made mistakes is when I didn’t listen. So what I know is, God is love and God is life, and your life is always speaking to you. First in whispers. . . . It’s subtle, those whispers. And if you don’t pay attention to the whispers, it gets louder and louder. It’s like getting thumped upside the head, like my grandmother used to do.  . . . You don’t pay attention to that, it’s like getting a brick upside your head. You don’t pay attention to that, the whole brick wall falls down. That’s the pattern I’ve seen in my life, and it’s played out over and over again on this show.”

Thoughts rushed into my head, bursting with truth! I knew why cancer had grown in my breast and why I had been allowed to find it so early—it was a brick upside my head. It was so clear. You see, the cancer had caused me to take time off my physically demanding job for treatment. During the time I had been working outside my home, I hadn’t written a single word in my unfinished novel. In truth, I was miserable. I hated my job and resented that I had let my dream just fizzle as if it meant nothing. Still, I didn’t feel that I could quit. I’d grown used to the income.

But in the months I’d been off work and allowing myself, without guilt, to do the things that were important to me, I was the happiest I’d been in a long time. In fact, my husband had repeatedly mentioned how the cancer had made me so much nicer. I was finally getting my life back on track. I was writing again! If not for cancer I would probably still be working that job that made me feel as though I was living someone else’s life.

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