I think about this a lot in the time between - who am I? Am I still me post breast cancer diagnosis, surgery and treatment. You see, I always knew that I was made of strong stuff. I have had an interesting life, to say the least and have had many strange (and wonderful) things happen to me along the way.
When I first found myself, my true self, it was the first time I lived away from my family. For some people, that is when they go to college but for me it was when I started my MBA program across the Atlantic Ocean. I was home for college and then had the once in a lifetime opportunity to study abroad for a full year (well, 11 months to be exact) and to get my MBA at 21-22 years old.
This experience changed the course of my life. It changed my professional opportunities, my personal life even my love life - but that is for another day. Let's just say my life was pretty much set to be a certain way, a certain path, and then I up and moved to Rome, Italy and everything changed. The way I spoke changed, the way I dressed changed, the way I did my hair changed. I mean, can I stop and digress on the hair?
I went every month to a hair salon near Piazza Del Poppolo owned by Sophia Loren's sister -- her SISTER -- and my hair stylist, Jorge, was amazing. I kept going shorter and shorter and shaved the back of my head for the first time. It is here where I finally found a way to manage that thing that was on my head the bouffant that made a girl in high school nickname me "Medusa" for a short while when we were all still being mean to one another.
The changes did not stop there- I carried myself differently, learned how to take care of myself (with the help of a very special person who is now in my life and helping me DAILY as I fight cancer - you know who you are --- Antonella) and I just got to understand what being "free" meant - while still keeping an almost 4.0 GPA because I have and always will be (at heart) a nerd.
When I returned home, things just did not "fit" anymore and lots of things changed even more. I began a career that took me around the world and just hammered in the fact that there is a professional me and a personal me. I also got boring. Well, first I got married and had a child, then another and then I got really boring.
But before my diagnosis I had started to find myself again - putting myself out there with my small business and really using social media and blogging and being the "expert" on things - which in the same way limited myself from really free expression.
Now, I think of myself and say, "Who am I?" Am I someone to "pity" - NO. I mean it was earth shattering to be diagnosed but all things considered I look back on my feelings and fears and think it was all justified. I went through those stages of grief rather quickly but then I am no stranger to having life up and change on me last minute and traumatically. Not everything that changed in my life was as amazing as living in Rome for a year. There have been lots of hard times and obstacles and things that just seemed like, "How will I ever make it back from here?" But I did it and I made it through.
I thought the same way about my cancer diagnosis - life sucks sometimes but despite all of that, I have still been lucky. It is more than luck, though, it is something I do not often share publicly because I have spent my life still being that mix of "professional" me and "personal" me and there are somethings you do not share -- but I would be remiss if I did not credit what, for me, has helped me be strong when I had no other choice and that is my faith.
I am working on another post to go in more detail about my faith - I am not a prophet and I do not want to convince anyone of following religion or believing in something just because I do. I do feel though that it is an important piece of what makes me, me and I am willing and ready to share it.
For now, though, I just want to say that I am still "me" - I can still be "boring" though I am working so hard on changing that on pushing myself to do things I have not done in over 12 years. I want to be a better friend and also to be better to me and my needs and not just subjugating myself to the needs of the people I love. I love them still the same but I cannot be who I was before. With each new experience, we change- at least if we are still living, we change. And I am ready for this new change.
My body has been beaten and battered (all for good reason to kick cancer's ass) and I will continue to persevere and smile. People do not understand that about me - how I have kept such a positive attitude and when I am asked how, I tell the truth, "I have no choice." That statement means a lot - I have no choice to be but who I am - positive, hopeful, fighter, hard worker and a little bit crazy.
That is why despite stage 3 breast cancer I can still say I am happy to be ME. I would not change spots with anyone in the world (I mean, I would have preferred NOT to get cancer but I cannot change that so I must accept it). And, I know who I am and also what I aspire to be - someone who is cancer free and able to take care of me in all the variations of me that there are -wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, entrepreneur, educator and blogger/writer. Most of all writer. This is what keeps me going - sharing who I am in the time between.
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