Since I unmasked myself and started to share about my plot twist with Breast Cancer, I have learned a lot.
I have learned what it means to tell your child you have cancer. You cannot understand that unless you have had to do it.
I have become accustomed to people who will say weird things like, "...sharing your personal story." - It might not sound weird but sometimes it is not the words, it is how it is said. This is not personal - this is public. This is how I deal with what robbed me of my voice, my hair, my health and my breast.
I understand what it is like to undergo chemotherapy and try to still work, raise children and be as normal as possible. I also have learned that nothing is more important than your health and that the right career is out there for me - but that I have not yet figured out exactly what that will be for me.
I know what it is like to lose every hair on my body and my head - twice (see it starts to grow back in the middle of chemotherapy and then falls out again!).
I have learned what true kindness looks like and I have learned who is really and truly in my corner.
I have lost a job and gained a new perspective and understanding as to what I want my life to be now that I have lived through "BC" and "AC" - before cancer and after cancer.
I am still learning the appropriate terminology - did I have cancer? Or do I have cancer?
I learned to appreciate every day, to let things go and to live my true life without giving a shit about what others think about me.
My scope of life is smaller - it is around just LIVING whereas before it was about all of the junk, all of the stress, all of the insanity that I allowed to run my life. Now I know my life is short (as all lives are short) and that anything that takes away from the JOY needs to be removed from the life as if it, too, were a cancer.
I have learned that there are amazing women and men out there that I never would have met had I not been diagnosed with cancer.
I have learned that I do have a partner in my marriage (who knew, friends).
I am learning that there should be a cure for this disease, that there should be a way to get it out of the world, of the bodies of those who are dying and out of children who are afflicted.
I am learning there are people who might think I am sharing my story for pity or for fame and I can just say, from the bottom of my heart to those people, "Fuck you." But with a smile :).
I am learning that out of all of the 1 in 8 women diagnosed with breast cancer, 30% of them will become metatastic (stage 4) and that there is no true rhyme or reason as to why. Oh and that each one of them will probably die from breast cancer. I say probably because there is still hope - there is always hope until the bitter end. I am watching via social media an outspoken and focused mom who put her all into advocating and changing how stage 4 breast cancer is treated and my heart is breaking for her and her family as this beast of an illness is draining her life. I have promised to help continue the fight, to help with advocacy and to be more out there than ever before.
If you have not been through this path, if you have not been afflicted with cancer, you truly cannot comprehend what those of us who have starred in this plot twist go through. I keep smiling because I believe that I am cured but what you cannot see is that there are times I worry, there are things that scare me - well there is 1 thing that scares me, if I am honest. Only one. That which scares me is if I die. That is it. There is nothing else that scares me. I walked into my own mastectomy, I am proud of my body, my scars and the fact that that which tried to kill me did not do its job. It has failed and for now, that is all that matters.
For each day in October, I will be sharing more and more of my story. I want people to recognize that there is really nothing you can do to "prevent" breast cancer particularly because that is what I have but for most cancers as a whole, this is true. We are not afflicted with the disease because of something we DID or DID NOT DO. We are people of all different shapes, sizes, sex and color. There are men who suffer from breast cancer, too. It is not the pink fuzzy bras - it is not about saving breasts. I willingly chopped off my breast to unleash the AMAZON within - I do not care about being "pretty" or "feminine" - (though I still am because I believe I am) - I care about being ALIVE.
I pray and I focus on my faith to help me understand this new reality. I meditate and exercise to give my body and mind a break from the reality of the unknown. As much as you think you know all, life can still throw a curve ball and it is how you react to said curve ball that makes you who you are. I am tough, I am smiling and I will not let other's misconceptions about this disease or lack of advocacy or lack of interest change me. I hope to be cured but I will also be someone who has / had breast cancer. I will always try to help others through my story, through my words and through the fact that I will educate others. I am an educator, a writer, someone who knows how to use social media and how to motivate and change things even just one person at a time - even just you reading this post.
Do not get cringe-y, do not just turn around and say, "Thank God it is not me." - become informed and understand that there are people every day diagnosed with cancer and that it can hit anyone at anytime.
I think about the job I had during my breast cancer - how I had not worked full time in a few years because I was being an entrepreneur and then out of nowhere I got offered this dream job and how said dream job turned into a big part of my nightmare as I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The lack of understanding and being told the day after my last chemotherapy that though they were there for me during the breast cancer, they would NOT be there for me next year because my position was gone - I stayed standing. I did not fall down. I will not fall down.
People tell me that I am so strong, that I am so good at handling this and I just continue to be amazed that people think I have a choice. I do not have a choice. I am a strong bitch. I will use what strength I have to help those without it. I will hug my children extra and longer because I know the unknown - I have stared into the abyss of this disease and I am living to tell the tale.
Do what you can to help those afflicted, donate but donate to things and charities that actually help the cancer patients. Understand that by treating us like normal people, you already are a rock star.
Understand that I never want you to understand what I have gone through, I never want anyone to be diagnosed with this disease. It sucks. But all it did was make me stronger - made me focused - made me want to make a difference. How can I make a difference with just my one voice, my one laptop, my one face, my one breast -- well, I guess one person at a time, one reader at a time, one viewer at a time. That is what I am here to do in the time between.
Dedicated to CultPerfectMoms - Beth Caldwell - Keep Breathing
The Time Between Is, INC is a 501(c)(3) corporation - help us reach our goals of launching #balanceaftercancer
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