An Open Letter to My Community
By Maria Gamb
Anyone who knows me well knows that the deepest, most personal parts of my life I keep shielded from my public persona. I am actually a very private person.
However, what I have come to learn is that the journey we are all asked to undergo, is something Joseph Campbell calls “The Hero’s Journey”. That is not to be heralded as a “hero” like Batman or our troops who serve this country. Instead it is to share the journey you’ve been on.
Once you’ve come to the end of that sequence of challenge, breakdown and transcending the experience then you are “obligated” to share it with others in the sincere hope of providing inspiration to others who may be in the midst of the same or similar experiences. So I’m going public with something deeply personal .
On January 14th, 2012 the love of my life, Valen, got down on bended knee and proposed to me. Weboth laughed and cried. I was tongue-tied yet he insisted on “a verbal” to confirm I’d accepted. We never thought we’d ever actually find the enormous love we felt for one another in our lifetime. But here we were. I finally found my word “Yes!”
All the aches and pains that Valen had been feeling in his joints and limbs for months made that “on bended knee” moment even more poignant. Nine days later, after I urged him to go to the doctor, he came home and sat me on the sofa quietly. His brown eyes were heavy and full of deep sadness. I knew it was important.
He told me the doctor thought he had an acute case of leukemia, however, additional testing would need to be done. I looked at him stunned and quickly said I didn’t believe the doctor.
“They took a bone marrow draw Maria, it’s serious stuff”.
“Well, I believe that God will work this out Val, no matter what, we are always taken care of. So let’s not worry about this right now.”
Over the next week we spent a lot of time talking about the miracle of finding one another in this lifetime. We could not and would not believe that we would be separated so quickly. After all, it had only been 2 years since we met. “I refuse to believe this could be the end for us” he kept saying. It would have been easy to be angry with God. Instead, I responded “Even if this was it, I would be grateful for this time. It has changed my life. I love you with all of my heart.” The tears flowed freely for both of us.
Shortly after, he was diagnosed with B-cell Lymphoma. “Well, Dr. H said that if I was going to get any form of cancer this was the one to have!” Val bounced up and down. “It’s completely curable but it may not be the best 7 months of our lives”. He smiled and laughed. That’s what he does. He’s a terminally optimistic man, even when he’s facing 7 months of chemotherapy.
There is much to be learned from this crisis that I’d like to share with you. Whatever crisis or challenge you may be experiencing, my sincere hope and wish is that this helps you in transcending the difficulty.
1) Faith – I truly believe that our faith that this would work out, made it so. Your unshakeable faith will help you rise above whatever crisis is staring you in the face. Laugh at that crisis, spit at it if you need to, but laugh, telling it (and reminding yourself) that you are always taken care of by the Divine.
2) Gratitude – I cannot express strongly enough how critical the ingredient of “gratitude” is, especially when faced with a challenge. Gratitude and Faith go hand in hand. The second truth I know, without a shadow of a doubt and in every fiber of my being, is that when I said I’d be grateful even if it was our last days together, it changed everything. I didn’t curse or damn anything or anyone. I will be honest – I don’t know where the words came from. Except perhaps all those days and hours of practicing gratitude made it a completely subconscious, and therefore most automatic of things for me (and Val) to do.
3) Operate on a ‘need to know basis’ until you’re solid – Share your situation with others who are safe and trusted. You will need others to support you as you go through your process. But be mindful of not engaging with people who will be negative or worry warts. During this time, you don’t need to be taking care of anyone else’s fears. When you feel more solid in your grounding then share with more people.
4) Don’t be angry because they don’t understand – Other people may not understand what you’re going through. They may not be compassionate. They may not be comfortable watching you experience pain or your loved one experiencing pain. Just remember, often you may be reflecting to them the very thing that terrifies them the most. In our case, a potentially life threatening disease that could take away a loved one. Everyone has limitations.
5) Get your priorities in order – You and your spouse/partner are your priority. Period! Not any business, networking group, mastermind or guru. Yes, I’m being BLUNT! One of the worst pieces of advice I was given was to be making sales calls in the parking lot while Val was undergoing chemotherapy. Yes, I was afraid of what would happen financially to us. I didn’t want him to worry about money at all during this process. But never underestimate the need to be 100% present in situations such as this for yourself and for your loved one. I never made sales calls while he was in treatment. And I’m having a great year! I choose to revert back to point 4 in regards to the advice I was given – Don’t be angry because they don’t understand.
6) Don’t forget to take care of YOU – Sleep. Rest. Remove as many obligations and responsibilities as possible from your plate. It’s time to not only practice prioritization, delegation and extreme self care, but be sure to take time for yourself to go for a walk, take a yoga class, go to the gym or do whatever works for you. You have to keep your own health and energy at peak levels. I personally ran off the Water Lounge at the Great Jones Spa in Soho as often as possible to decompress.
Val is about to have his last chemotherapy treatment. He is in full remission and going strong. He’s got a great chrome dome as his badge of honor and passage through this experience. I think he looks adorable.
We look at today as the first day of the rest of our lives together. It is a new beginning for us. One we welcome with great joy, appreciation, deep, soulful and undeniable gratitude. There’s that word again, Gratitude.
- What this journey has taught us is that gratitude is TRULY the activating ingredient in making any profound change in your life.
- What we found is that we thought we’d only be able to tell a few people about the cancer because we only wanted those who would be positive to know. However, in reality we could tell everyone we knew, which is a testament to the quality of people in our lives.
- When we asked for people to pray for us, they did. All the time. Every time. Anytime.
- When we needed shoulders to cry on, we found many.
- When we wanted to celebrate, there were dozens showing up at our door.
- And when we needed laughter, our friends and this insanely wonderful NYC NEVER disappointed!
- Finally, what we have gained is PEACE. And the reassurance that our Faith can and will carry us through to the other side of whatever comes at us.
Val and I will be married on January 12, 2013 at a small ceremony with a gathering of our families and a handful of friends.
If you’ve experienced a major challenge recently please feel free to share what you learned from it. You never know, it just may help someone you’ve never met too!