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Shawna Rodrigues 0:00
Bucket lists. There's something that most people have. Do you have one? What's on yours? Swimming in bioluminescent waters, watching a glacier calving, seeing the brilliant shades of autumn in New England, eating at a Michelin starred restaurant, filling this brave Niagara Falls, learning to speak another language, backpacking and sleeping under the stars, painting something worthy of hanging on your wall? Seeing a moose in person, seeing the cherry blossoms over this basin in DC, visiting a European Council, rediscovering your relationship that went dormant for 20 years, writing a novel, traveling to all 50 states? Or about visiting the country where your great grandparents were born? Swimming under a waterfall, learning to play soccer, making homemade bread? There are many things you can put onto your bucket list. None of these items I just listed are actually on mine. But not for the reason you might think. They aren't on my bucket list, because I don't have a bucket list. I actually don't believe in them. Stick around. I'd love to give you some food for thought on why perhaps you shouldn't have one either.
Shawna Rodrigues 1:17
Welcome to The Grit Show. Growth on purpose. I'm grateful you found our community of seekers and thrivers growing together. I'm your host, Shawna Rodrigues, and this is Thursday thoughts. These episodes come out each Thursday. These are one on one episodes that are a little shorter. And aren't the conversational format of the interviews we have on Tuesdays.
Shawna Rodrigues 1:42
Last week, I promise tell you more about snooze last summer that rocked my world a bit and had a surprising lesson about bucket lists. You should feel honored too. What we're talking about today is something I haven't talked about with many of my nearest and dearest friends, which is very strange, and a fairly open book. But as the story unfolds, I think you'll understand why it's a story rarely shared. For the sake of time, you're skipping right to the punch line. Last July, immediately following an amazing week in Kaua'i, I was to have an MRI meant to evaluate if I may have multiple sclerosis, due to family history, as well as some other questionable symptoms as experiencing. Fortunately, when I read the results, they led with no imaging suggestive of multiple sclerosis. I was thrilled. However, at the end of the results, there was a bunch of garbled words and confusing comments that had to do five spots that were indeterminant.
Shawna Rodrigues 2:42
They were atypical for some random big words and more typical of metastatic disease. You would think since my mother died of metastatic melanoma, that I would have instantly known what that meant. But again, there were a lot of big terms being thrown around. So I called my doctor. They called me and by 10am. I called at 8am as soon as they opened. After reading my results at 7am, not long after I got up and having the MRI completed at 6:30pm the night before. All are very fast.
Shawna Rodrigues 3:17
I'm sure you're not shocked that by 11am I was sobbing in the parking lot in my SUV and wishing my fiance didn't have a job which meant he was assisting in the surgical room and not able to be disturbed during the day. I had referrals for Neuro oncologist. And with my history, symptoms and the results my MRI, it was highly suspected that I had metastatic brain cancer, which could only be diagnosed through finding the original cancer elsewhere my body or by seeing how drastically these spots had metastasized in three to six months.
Shawna Rodrigues 3:49
I know I should have been grateful that they weren't going to biopsy my brain. But I was at a loss. They didn't have a clearer and quicker way to give me answers. I mean, in today's age, waiting three to six months to find out if you had a cancer with a median survival rate of three to six months after diagnosis didn't really add up for me. I had these highly suspicious spots on my brain and no answer for them yet. It was strange to have his guillotine hanging over me with no knowledge if it was a mirage or not. I, like many of you perhaps, had been a little estranged with my friend network through the pandemic. An actual diagnosis would have meant mobilizing them and bringing them together and having that support. But this phantom diagnosis, it was a nuisance. It was a confusing complication in the background. I saw very quickly how disorienting and overwhelming it was for the few people closest to me who did know and that I did tell why on earth I destabilize others when there was no action to be taken, no diagnosis to fight against, no knowledge if we were really looking at the worst case scenario, and all of the stress and worry might be in vain, because I didn't actually have it.
Shawna Rodrigues 5:14
It was a complicated three to six months. So why am I sharing all of this with you? Why is it important to now talk about my summer of brain cancer? I think the biggest reason is that, as overwhelming and as exhausting as it was, one thing stood out to me. And that was that I didn't have a long list of things that I needed to rush and accomplish. When my mother was battling her cancer, and when she was so sick, we kept planning trips that were getting canceled, and we couldn't complete. I remember being in her hospital room, when we're supposed to be in Kaua'i and our friends were there and the house I'd rented, but we weren't because she had taken a turn that meant her doctors would not approve the trip. She never got to see Niagara Falls, she never got to go to Norway. We never got to do all of these things we talked about doing because her illness prevented it. And yet here I was, with the health to go wildly do anything I needed to do if I really thought I only had three to six months to live, and no need to do anything. I had published my novel, I had traveled to Europe. I had gone to Costa Rica, my fiancee and I had just come back from an amazing trip to Kaua'i, I bought the house that I was told was too big for me that was perfect, that I loved. I took the job to do some incredible fabulous work, even though they required me to move across the country. I've been to all 50 states, I have loved deeply, I found the love of my life. There was those pieces where I wish I had more time with him where I wanted to spend every minute with him. And it hurt me to think of him being without me. It hurt me to think of who I was leaving and what I was leaving. But I didn't need anything more because I done all of those things. And in the end, they came back in September and things looked good. But they were still being a little cagey by giving me a clear, clear sign. And then they decided in December that it was actually something they weren't worried about. So I joke that I have freckles on my brain. And that's why I have all these symptoms that I have that led them to believe that it was something else. And so in the end, it really was for not. Like, all of the appointments, expenses, stress, and glad I didn't stress out more of my friends with my story of thinking that was the case.
Shawna Rodrigues 8:11
When we went to Hawaii at the end of June, right before the rollout of metastatic brain cancer. One of my friends has said to me how much she loved that I did that. That my life has so many dips, and so many things going on and things happening. But every time I come up for air, I come up for air and I'm going to Hawaii or I'm going to Costa Rica, or I'm going to the beach for the day by myself and I'm finding the space and finding the way to take care of myself. Because I realized that there's gonna be another, another sticky spot. And sometimes you can't even predict them because honestly, there have been a few things that I haven't been able to predict. But you know, the potential diagnosis of metastatic brain cancer really didn't see that coming. And it's even more amusing since I did not have that. So, it was just a detour for three to six months of tiptoeing around that potential that was actually never really a threat. When that happens, all you can do is walk away with the benefits you gained. Unfortunately, I realized that benefit within the first week. Although it was overwhelming to conceptualize this uncertain future that I couldn't even try to chart out because I like to try things out, right? The hardest thing for me was the uncertainty of this hanging over me. And I can't imagine adding to that levels of regrets of friends I had lost touch with. Places I'd never gone of work and potential that I'd never lived up to ways I want to impact the world that I'd never been able to do.Shawna Rodrigues:
Do you remember the list of items at the beginning of the show? Each of those is something I've actually done. And I cherish the fact I made them happen. It's not as hard as you might think. Instead of making a list, you decide, is this something I really want to do? If so, why aren't I doing it? If not, why am I wasting my time daydreaming about it? If I'm daydreaming about going to New Zealand, but I hate long plane trips, what is it I really want? Time with a friend who went on that trip without me? Time at a beach I can drive to? Time off period? Then whichever of those, plan for that. Take those first steps. If it's time at the beach you can drive to, find time to take off and do that. Make the plans to have the car serviced. Whatever steps you need, what's standing in your way? We move the obstacle or accept the obstacle. Stop making it a bucket list. Let go of the things that are meant for you that you don't really want or decide it is what you really want, and start moving towards it and get things out of your way so you can get it done. Like there's some curveballs that will definitely slow you down. But you can't let it stop you.Shawna Rodrigues:
I hope that as you think about this, and think about things that you want, and that you are striving for, that you find the stuff that we don't know about tomorrow. All we have is today. So we have to make the most of it. I'm curious that there's a better way I could have told my story. But I'm here, showing up, being authentic, sharing my truth the best I can, and hopefully encouraging you to do the same. I hope you make time for yourself this weekend. If you haven't already, please head on over to our website and join our mailing list so that you can get a copy of our coloring pages, a little something you can do just for yourself. Because self care is important. Do you know while you're doing your coloring, you might want to discriminate a little bit, what brings you joy, what's your thankful for what you want more of in your life? There are things that you want to fit in and prioritize. You don't need a bucket list, you need a just do it list. So go out there and get it done. And also jump over and follow us on Instagram, @The.Grit.Show. We have 10 coloring books to giveaway this month. So the combination of a $50 gift card, Instagram and our mailing list is the best way to learn all about that. So get over there and join us. I'll be here again next week, and I can't wait to connect with you again then. Until then, take care of you. I mean it. You're the only one of you that this world has got and that means something.