Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

Ashley Smith

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Journey

Do you see the upside down heart?  My sweet cousin Lisa pointed it out to me!

It was about this time last year that I started my journey with breast cancer. I could no longer ignore the lump I kept feeling in my right breast.  Could no longer push it off as swelling associated with my period or maybe a bump or bruise.  I went to my doctor, assuming I would get the exams, tests, etc. and be told- “oh, it is just a little, benign mass.  You have nothing to worry about.”  Of course, that is not what I heard.  I heard the dreaded words carcinoma and invasive.

You can read about my experience here: The Saga, The Saga Part 2, and Chemo Sucks

I am thinking about it now, not necessarily because of the anniversary, but because another one of my friends has recently been diagnosed.  She started her chemotherapy this week.  And then the clerk at the local convenience store,  who is also a friend and knows my story, told me that one of her customers had also just been diagnosed and did I know of a support group.  “I don’t know of a support group, but I am willing to be a support, here is my phone number, please share it with her.”

When I was first diagnosed, I was amazed at the number of women (that I knew-personally) that told me that they had either had or were very close to someone who had breast cancer.  The press calls breast cancer an epidemic.  Hearing that and knowing that are two different things.  An epidemic seems impersonal.  and "over there" not raging through my small town community.

In light of this epidemic, here are some things that I have learned on my journey.

Blame is useless.

I have blamed myself for my cancer.  I must have done/ not done, eaten/ not eaten, drunk/not drunk something wrong. 

I have blamed my environment. I must have been exposed to, involuntarily ingested, breathed in some toxin.

I have blamed my genetic makeup.

In the end, it doesn’t matter.  Whatever made the cancer grow, made it grow.  That revelation doesn’t mean that I will throw up my hands and just do whatever I want now- I will continue to eat a healthy diet, keep my weight down, keep my alcohol consumption under control.  What it means is that life is a crap shoot.  We try as hard as we can, do our best and “bad” things can still happen.

Pain is pain.  And pain is universal.

Although I am supremely grateful for the ease of my treatment and the quick return of good health, I still struggle with what this disease has stolen from me.  It stole my unwavering belief in my strong healthy body.  It stole my complacence that death is far away and abstract.  It stole my shaky, yet emerging, sense of confidence in my physical appearance. 

Most literally, most immediately, it stole my breasts and my hair. My hair is returning, slowly, slowly.  Currently I am stuck as the 1980’s version of Pat Benatar, but boobless and not as badass.  It’s hard, although not as hard as the 2 weeks ago Mon Chi Chi look. 
Mon chi chi, Mon chi chi...

 It whittles away at my self esteem, which is already sort of a meringue and toothpick sort of affair.  It makes me face up to how vain I am and have always been.  I didn’t feel vain, but the Universe apparently felt I was and sought to help straighten that out. 

My boobs. My boobs are gone and they ain’t coming back.  I am okay with it. and I’m not.  It depends on the day minute.  Physically it feels fine.  When I am walking around, I feel thin and strong- powerful even.  If only mirrors could reflect back how we feel instead of what we actually look like…

So here I am. Struggling.  Struggling and feeling small about it.  Is it really appropriate for me to struggle with my outward appearance when I could have died?  Can I really feel “less than” and boyish and not good enough when I kicked cancer ass last year?

Apparently, the answer to all those questions is yes.

It is uncomfortable for me to write about this and share that my armor of self-confidence and good spirits and happy-happy may have a pretty big chink in it.  But I am doing it.  I am doing it because it is okay.  And it is important to share that it is okay.

We all walk around with our game face on.  Showing that we are invincible.  Taking life’s knocks and keeping a smile.  I applaud this- it is important not to fold up and blow away with every little ripple. 

Equally important, and I am just beginning to fully realize this, is to recognize that sometimes you need to embrace your frailty.  And that there is no reason to try and quantify that frailty, if that were even possible.  Pain is pain, ours is not to judge, but to be kind and learn.  To hold ourselves, as we would our lover or our child, and let ourselves hurt. 

Because ultimately, it will be okay and the sun will shine again.

Be well my blog readers.  I hope that your sun is shining this week!

1 comment:

  1. You should link this blog somehow to the Breast Cancer Awareness site. I bet there are thousands of women who could benefit from your trial. You Rock Lorie and I am so blessed to know you. Continue to fight, live well, be strong and beautiful!!! love love to you my friend:0)


“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” -Albert Einstein