Another day to live excellently

Two years ago my husband and our kids moved in with family. In one of those moments that can only be described as “divine intervention” a month later I was diagnosed with an early form of breast cancer called ‘DCIS’. The move had to have been the Creator helping me out from above.

Thankfully, “He Who Created Our Bodies” guided my medical team to remove the growing cells from my body and I am now cancer free. I didn’t need radiation, I didn’t need chemotherapy, and I did not require hormone pills. Nonetheless, my cancer experience was world changing, draining and one of the most difficult things I have faced in my life.

Now two years later I am almost fully recovered; my reconstructive surgery is complete and a success, my emotional self has nearly become reconciled to my experience and I have a dream job; writing and sharing my heart with my people whom I love – the Haudenosaune. In the midst of the trauma I felt hopeless at times, but now – I feel like I am walking on sunshine. Happiness doesn’t even really begin to explain my feelings on survivorship. Everything is different. That was articulated this week when our family finally moved into our own house again.

The Garlows endured through a devastating series of emotional blows to the heart for about five years. Each one made getting up out of bed every day a challenge. Truth be told, sometimes we didn’t. And it wasn’t just my illness either; there was a string of sudden deaths and illnesses that just absolutely brought my husband and I to our knees, begging for help from above.

I remember going to church about three months after my brother-in-law Jeremy was killed. The people were praying and all I can remember is finally feeling safe enough to let it all go. Literally I screamed out loud and collapsed onto the floor into a puddle of tears. A group of women came around me and held me, praying the entire time and carrying my spirit through that release.

While I was still going through breast reconstruction there were days I felt like an ugly Frankenstein. The scars and disfigurement I was enduring absolutely assaulted any sense of femininity I had.

That was when my friends from White Pine Dancers invited me out to dance and drum, taking my rightful place even in my illness within the circle. I felt like a princess every time. It was these expressions of support, loving kindness that said “you matter to me” without using words that carried me all along the way.

Our story is sacred. It is now a holy place in my heart that has given me strength. However as is life, there is a spirit out there who would love to see the Garlows crumble and fall. Whether it comes in the form of attacking our friends, family or business through online bullying, or by other means, it seems there is always a force working in opposition to us keeping our Ganigohiyo. To that I say; ‘Oh well.’

You see because my ancestors survived through residential school I have learned that you should never try to control what other people do, say, think or feel. Because I have walked through grief I learned that you never know why other people are frowning. Because I walked through illness and constant pain you never can tell why other people are grouchy and because I have walked through my own humiliation I have learned that no matter what anyone throws at me the sun will rise and set, and the Creator will carry me through another day. It is my choice what I am going to do with my time here in the world and when the time eventually comes that ‘He Who Created Our Bodies’ carries me home – then I will answer to Him what I did with my days. It is my goal that He then tells me “Well Done.”

This weekend as I walked into our new home and carried boxes of our things into their new place I realized that the sun was shining and I have every reason to be happy because I am loved by many and the Creator has given me a fresh start and another day to live excellently.

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