This is the script from the first time I spoke my story in public.
The Speech: Owning It (watch it)
I am in the throes of a midlife crisis.
I know what you’re thinking: You mean a quarter-life crisis, right, Sonja? I wish. I’m actually 67 and half years old and will be living until 150. All of this (motioning to face) is Oil of Olay, lots of eye cream, and no kids.
The “crisis” began its assault about four years ago: my father had just died and I was very much going through a “what does it all mean” phase.
That’s what death tends to do.
Still, it didn’t quite make sense. My business was thriving. My books were selling and would soon become bestsellers. But something was still missing.
Then, that something hit me. Kids. Kids had to be the next step. I was never one of those who wanted them for the sake of having them, but I thought it might cool and, at this point, my uterus was already considered “geriatric.” It’s a thing. Look it up.
I’d been caring for my dad the last two years and had missed a couple of my annual checkups. I’d never had an issue before so I wasn’t concerned. I just wanted to make sure my parts were still working if babies were in my future.
Then I got “the call.” You know the call, ladies. That one you hope you never get about a week after you get smeared.
As if on phone …
Abnormal cells. OK, what does that mean?
Cervical cancer. You’ve got to be kidding me. Because cancer is what I needed I my life right now.
I was diagnosed with cervical cancer two months after my dad died.
And over the next year: appointments, procedures, wondering if I’d live or die.
I’d never faced my own mortality before. Everyone else around me was always sick or dying: My mother died of Alzheimer’s when I was in high school which still impacts me to this day along with certain abandonment issues caused by my father because everyone needs to have daddy issues on top of their grief.
But, until my cancer diagnosis, I never thought much about my own life or acknowledged that I too would die someday. I’d floated through life bouncing from rock to rock without much purpose.
Cancer allowed me to see that I was just floating. It made me see that I’ve never owned my story. I’ve held it very close to the chest and it’s the thing that has held me back all these years.
I’ve never talked about my mom, or my childhood, or my cancer. I’ve always wanted to write a memoir, but wasn’t ready … until now.
And I realized the thing that needed to change was my mindset.
I’ve spent more than 20 years thinking about what I’ve lost: My mother, my childhood, and, now, motherhood.
To save my life, I had to have a hysterectomy. It was the only way to ensure that the cancer wouldn’t spread, if it hadn’t already. And I was lucky. The cancer was contained to my cervix and no further treatment was needed. And as of Nov. 18, I’ve been cancer-free for three years.
So, really, what DOES it all mean? Really, someone tell me what it all means. I’ve been making my own decisions for far too long and all I want is someone to tell me how to navigate. I’m tired, man.
I sometimes joke that, given the life experience I’ve had, I’ll be dead by 50. You know, my parents are dead. I’m now menopausal. What else is left?
Like I said, my mindset has always been focused on what I don’t have, what I’ve lost. Of course, I’m grumpy and crotchety. Who wouldn’t be? But …
I have nothing holding me back now. I don’t have to worry about my parents. I don’t have to worry about raising a family, or putting kids through college. I can do whatever I want. I’m free.
And it’s terrifying.
My life is as wide-open as I want it to be.
It’s time for me to face myself and who I can become.