Listen to the Whispers
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved October. It’s always so nice to feel the crisp air on my body, pull out yummy sweaters, and watch the leaves change. But the best part of October is…Halloween!
Sure, I enjoyed the costumes and decorations. But for me, Halloween was all about the CANDY! As a kid, the concept was mind-blowing! “So you’re telling me that all I have to do is get dressed up in some costume, walk around the neighborhood, knock on someone’s door, say ‘trick or treat’ and I get free candy?” That’s a no-brainer! For a kid who loved candy, there was nothing better.
My siblings and I would roam the neighborhood for hours until our pillowcase bags were filled. When we returned home, Mom laid out a big sheet in the middle of the living room floor. Then each one of us would take a corner of the sheet (perfect for 4 kids!), dump out our bags, do a quick inventory and… the trading began! My brother didn’t like anything with nuts. My older sister loved the Milky Ways. My little sister liked Snickers. And me? Well, I just loved the MASS amounts of candy. I’d try it all. Gummies, chocolate, even the funny looking little wrapped candies that you can only find during Halloween. It didn’t matter. I just loved the gluttony. Having so much candy to choose from filled my little girl’s heart with joy!
Later, becoming a Mom re-awakened my love of Halloween. When my kids were small, I had so much fun dressing them in adorable, overpriced costumes that generally only stayed on them long enough to take a picture. I have vivid memories of my boy’s cute little faces as they were all dressed up as Humpty Dumpty, a cuddly bear, and Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. When they were old enough to trick or treat, I continued the tradition of having the boys dump their candy on a sheet in the middle of the living room floor. It thrilled me to watch them negotiate their trades and dig into the piles of candy. Once their sugar highs had subsided and they were safely tucked into bed, I found my way back to their candy stashes. Yep- I was a bad mom. I admit to stealing from my own kids. Luckily, they didn’t really catch on until they were much older.
Things are a little different now that the boys have grown up and I realized I can just go out and buy all the candy I like. I sit at home, (not so) secretly hoping the neighborhood kids skip our house. And I may have even turned our porch light off a little early in hopes that we’d have plenty of leftover candy. Guilty as charged. That gluttonous child still lurks within!
But there were some years when October wasn’t as pleasant. Like the time I was pregnant with our first child and subsequently lost her. We were initially told that her loss was the result of a virus I’d contracted, most likely from handing out Halloween candy to children. Yeah, that one took me a long while to work through, even after learning the supposition was false.
And then in 2018 October took on a whole new meaning when I underwent my last chemo treatment. That was the first year we celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness Month, grateful that my own experience with the disease was, hopefully, coming to an end. Now, this glorious month offers me the opportunity to share my experience and encourage women to take care of themselves and do their breast checks. The inspiration I received to do my breast check that fateful day was a bit of a miracle, really.
I was lurking on Facebook when I saw a post by someone who was sharing how she’d been cancer free for a couple years. The post didn’t strike me as unique or special beyond the fact that I was grateful she was now healthy. So I moved on with my day and got ready to jump in the shower. That’s when something amazing happened. I heard a whisper. A very gentle whisper that said, “Sarah, check your breasts.” Hmmmm… OK. It wasn’t long since my last mammogram and I did regular breast checks, so I was a bit surprised by the message of the whisper. But I followed the guidance and did the check. That’s when I felt the lump and my journey with breast cancer began.
I’ve often thought about that whisper. I could have dismissed it as an overreaction to the post I’d read. I could have rationalized its message away and ignored the wisdom it provided. But I didn’t. Something inside me knew to trust this beautiful, magnificent whisper and follow its guidance.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been guided by a whisper. Many years ago there was a whisper that encouraged me to move from New York to San Diego, allowing me to start a new chapter in my life. And there was one that nudged me to audition for a musical where I’d eventually meet my husband. And a few minutes before the phone rang, a whisper told me I’d be getting an important call with the results of my biopsy, allowing me a moment to prepare for the news. Big events that started with a gentle whisper.
I welcome my whispers. They almost always come in moments of quiet. The world can be loud, but when I can quiet within myself, it’s easier to hear them. So I’m intentional about finding quiet time. I also acknowledge and respond to the whispers out loud, thanking them for their insight and wisdom. And yes, I’m aware that the image of me talking to an invisible voice is a bit, well, out of the ordinary. But so is that beautiful whisper! It’s extraordinary.
So this October, as I celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month, Halloween and my full, beautiful, amazing life, I find myself overflowing with love and gratitude.
I encourage you, dear reader, to listen to your gentle whispers. They are full of wisdom and guidance. And after you’ve done your breast check, treat yourself to a bit of candy. Because you know, everything’s better with a little bit of sweetness.
My Breast Life, One Woman’s Journey Through Cancer Blog by Blog can be found on Amazon. And if you’re a woman who would like support moving through midlife, please visit me at sarahaltman.com or reach out to me directly.