We are blessed to share in the experiences of others, especially when they inspire us. Michelle Raphaella Fredman is such an inspirational being and so wise at the age of 23. Thank you for allowing us to share your journey with the Pink Trees for Pauline community, Michelle. Be blessed!
“So…If you had asked me this time last year how I would be spending my 23rd birthday, I could have given you a myriad of different answers and still none would have come even close to being right. This year, instead of spending my day basking in the joys of turning another year old, a joy we so easily take for granted, I spent my birthday in Constantiaberg mediclinic, like I have every other Thursday for the past 2 months, hooked up to a drip, receiving my fifth round of ABVD chemotherapy. To some this might come as old news and to others I’m sure it’s a shock, but please know this… every little thing is going to be alright!
I write this post not as a plea for your sympathy or your pity. I write to free myself from the constraints of fear and revel in the golden liberation that comes with living in one’s truth. We are all fragile beings, riddled with doubts and insecurities, susceptible to life’s adversities, to the divorces and the deaths, the breakups, the heartaches, the rejections and the cancers. None of us are invincible. So I think, why not try to be a bit more real, a bit more honest, a little bit more vulnerable while we’re here on Earth. Death will take us anyway.
In early December last year, I was diagnosed with Lymphoma. For those who don’t know what that is, Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system (aka the blood.) I am incredibly lucky in the sense that not only did they find it relatively early (stage 2), but I am privileged enough to afford quality treatment and care. Even more luckily, we are living in a time where medical technology is so advanced, that what could have been a terminal prognosis, is now highly treatable. And luckiest of all, I have the most incredible, insanely wonderful support system of friends and family helping me get through this turbulent time. But still, regardless of my luck, receiving this diagnosis has undoubtedly been the hardest challenge of my life so far. Before cancer, I was living as though I was untouchable, thinking nothing truly bad could ever really happen to me. What a giant, beautiful slap in the face this has been. And I know we get told this all the time: “Live like there’s no tomorrow” / “Live with no regrets” and all the rest of those exhausted clichés. But it really is only when something truly big or significant happens in our lives, only when we are shaken to our absolute core and pushed to our furthest limits, that we finally wake up and realise the fragility of our transient lives.
It took me being diagnosed with cancer to finally wake up from the stupor I was living in (or not living in) and realise the truth. That this is it. These are the lives we have have been given. And I know they aren’t perfect. Pain and joy are two sides of the same coin. Your living situation might not be ideal, your parents might not be around anymore, (physically or mentally), your body (according to society’s unobtainable standards) may never be perfect. Your hair might not be straight enough, your skin not tan enough, your bank account not stable enough, you’re significant other not existent enough!
But GUESS WHAT? You are breathing. And this means you get to wake up every morning and look up at the sky. You get to live! And you have to start asking yourself…do you take the time to notice how beautiful the clouds are everyday? Do you jump up and down with joy for the fact that you get to see birds flying across a pale blue morning sky or a pink sun setting over the atlantic ocean? Do you thank the stars for shining every night or the sun for beaming down upon your skin?
Do you actively exult in the fact that you get to wake up every morning and live? That you’re lucky enough to get to eat something tasty every day? Do you realise what a privilege that is? Do you realise how many people in this world don’t have that option? Do you ever think about how fantastic it is that you get to dance to music and walk down the street and interact with interesting, unique people. That you get to swim in the sea and stare up at the trees with their changing leaves and pet dogs. DOGS!! Real live dogs! You get to learn new things and have crazy new experiences and you get to choose every day how happy you want to be. Just think about that!
I never saw the intensity of the beauty all around me because I was so focused on what was wrong. I was never skinny enough, I was never good enough, I was never smart enough, I was never enough. Me, Me, Me. My ego had full control of my thoughts. Nothing was ever enough…until it all almost got taken away from me. I received the biggest awakening in the form of this disease and now nothing can ever be the same.
And the best part of it all? I have never felt more alive than I do right now. I have never felt more grateful to be a living breathing person in this world. I wake up everyday excited by the possibilities of life. I look in the mirror now, with my awkwardly balding head and I finally see my beauty. I have faced what I thought was one of my biggest fears in the world and guess what? It turns out, it isn’t that scary after all. Because I finally understand, on a deeply personal level, that beauty is not on the outside. Beauty is the way you feel on the inside. Beauty is the way you make others feel about themselves.
And so I wanted to share my story in the hopes that someone out there will read this and maybe come to realise what I am starting to see. That this is it. These are our lives. We have to stop being afraid to feel real feelings and express real emotions and shout our truths from the rooftops. We have to stop hiding from the world. We have to stop fearing and start loving. We have to start loving ourselves, flaws and all. Because, to have scars means to have lived a life of adventure. To have curves means your ancestors were strong, powerful, beings who walked this earth with bare toes and broad bellies. To feel broken inside means you have lived, it means you have tried for something real.
To be vulnerable is to be alive.
Thank you for the abundance of messages today, I love every single one of you so so much. I’m genuinely overwhelmed by love.
If you want to follow more of my personal journey…I have a blog where I like to write poetry and ramble on about many things as you can obviously tell… (blaaaablaahblaaah) :