I’m not big into pink. I wear it but it’s gotten a little overdone, I think. We’re all so different as survivors and we are not fragile flowers. We’ve been tested: our bodies, our will, our whole lives tested through the ordeal of breast cancer…fear, uncertainty, surgeries, chemo, biologics…
Some of us just don’t feel very “pink”.
But pink has done its job.
I think we are all aware now during this month of October. We have accomplished that. We know breast cancer does not discriminate. Young, old, rich, poor. We know that.
They say getting breast cancer when you’re young like I was made it potentially more deadly, fast-growing. I was 35. They tested me for the gene. Back in the ‘90s, they said I didn’t have a mutation. Now they say the test is better. Maybe at 62, they say I should do it again.
Almost 28 years after being diagnosed, mastectomy, chemo, reconstruction, I can tell you I have been fortunate to go through several different stages of this survivorship thing:
- In the first few years, I was just grateful to see another sunrise.
- Then there was the, “Oh what the hell, live for today” period. Life is short.
- Then there was the let’s forget the whole thing ever happened phase.
- And then finally, peace.
It took a long time to make peace with my post-breast cancer body.
“Why did you turn on me?” That burning question isn’t as important to me now as “how do I live my best life?” How do I help others live their best life? I’m still here. What can I share?
If you are a survivor, a few honest thoughts that I hope will help you.
The first year is hell. No doubt about it. You wish you could snap your fingers and be in your future. You can’t. You get through it and hold on to every minute of every day. Hold on to your life, your family, your loved ones, the best you can. Take strength anywhere you can get it. Block out things that don’t help you or serve you.
Be bitchy, angry, scream, yell, cry as much as you want. You have the right.
The fear of recurrence doesn’t help us much. I’ve learned to take control of what I can. Try to eat right, sleep right, exercise and go to all of my checkups. Recurrence? I can’t control that so I just put that fear in a box in the back of my head. What good is worrying? I’ve done plenty. It’s a waste of precious time.
Change your life if you don’t like the life you’ve been living.
Breast cancer is definitely a wake-up call. It still influences all of my big life decisions. I look at all things this way…If I got breast cancer again, I’m going to be ticked off if I wasn’t living the life I wanted the day before and every day before that.
I became much braver after breast cancer. You learn what there is to really be afraid of in life. I’d been afraid of making mistakes. I’d been afraid of standing up for myself. I’d been afraid of being imperfect. I embrace all the imperfections today. They are uniquely mine. I make mistakes. I own those too.
Do NOT consult Dr. Google and scare the hell out of yourself.
Make sure you are always going to a reliable source for medical information. I’m prejudiced. I’m on the board of Living Beyond Breast Cancer. We’re proud of the medically vetted information and support we provide online and through our programs at lbbc.org.
It’s okay to ask for help and let friends and family in while you’re in treatment. Try not to close off to others who “don’t understand”. Give them a task that allows them to feel like they are helping. They feel at a loss too.
You are not alone.
This might be the most important thing for you to know. I’ve met the most amazing fellow human beings through breast cancer. You do not have to go through this by yourself. We are fellow survivors. We’re everywhere. We have been where you are. We’ve walked in your shoes. You can share it with us. You can share it with me.
Look at long-time survivors for hope. Find hope anywhere you can. And laugh if you can. Laugh at how strange life is through the lens of cancer. Lifetime warranties…hysterical. (Sorry. Cancer humor.)
The most powerful thing you can do? Reclaim your life. Don’t wait for “the other shoe to drop”. That’s not life. Be in it, fully, passionately, defiantly every single day if you can.
I go through long periods of time I don’t think about it at all. You’ll wake up one morning and forget to think about it too. That’s okay. Good. Good for you.
Tell everyone or not. Wear a wig or not. Get a tattoo or not. Get reconstruction or not. Wear pink proudly or not. It’s okay.
It’s breast cancer, I know. It’s horrible. It’s not okay, ever. But it’s absolutely okay to do this journey your way.
Let me know if I can help.