This may be a controversial post, I’m just warning you. Maybe not, depending on how you view what I feel. I’m a breast cancer survivor although I abhor the badge survivor. Yes, I survived breast cancer and have for almost 16 years, but I am not one of those who go to the Pinktober or Breast Cancer Walks with pink frilly enthusiasm. It’s just not me.
I think it’s nice that people unite for those walks to raise money for research, but in the sixteen years since I was diagnosed, there have been a few strides, but not many. So where’s the funding going?
There are thousands of items bedazzled with the pink ribbon during Breast Cancer Awareness month that are for sale. While I appreciate it, I also feel the superficiality of it. For enduring breast cancer isn’t all pink ribbons.
It’s grueling surgeries, treatments and fear-induced sleepless nights. Like all life threatening situations, it requires bravery to face our inevitable death, with the threat of it coming too soon. I was 34 years old when I was diagnosed out of the blue, having found an M&M sized lump in my breast. Complete shock overtook me on that New Year’s Eve in 2001 when the diagnosis was delivered.
Fast forward to 2017 after having endured countless surgeries, chemotherapy (ACT) and radiation, not to mention a double mastectomy, two implant replacements and then a radical replacement of my breasts with my own fat tissue instead of implants because my body kept rejecting them, I’ve been through the ringer like many people have in my situation. I’ve lost my hair, been in menopause since 2003 and aged faster than my friends because of the illness. I have lingering effects from the cancer which include chronic fatigue which I battle daily. The funny thing about the chronic fatigue is that most people just don’t understand what I experience because I look normal (or as normal as possible). But that’s a whole different post.
However, the word survivor when applied to my breast cancer experience sticks in my craw. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I merit the word survivor. Victims of the Holocaust merit the word survivor, people who survived horrendous experiences merit the word survivor in my book. But for me, no.
Me, I endured breast cancer. While its aftereffects still play a role in my daily life, I am gratefully still here. Sure, I have had more threats to my health than I can count anymore. I am tested routinely due to other complications and I have endured countless uncomfortable tests and more sleepless nights than I want to remember.
The term survivor to me is having lived through something awful and to be able to go on afterwards. Maybe that’s how some people feel about their diagnosis in the breast cancer world. For me, it’s not a been there, done that, wear the pink sparkly t-shirt and smile. It’s still enduring the illness in whatever shape and form it reemerges.
The Presents of Presence emerged from my journey with breast cancer. In being present with my feelings, acknowledging the gifts in this moment and in taking the time to be mindful, spiritual and experiencing all that presence allows, is how I live my life now. I am still a work in progress. I thank you for reading my post today, for holding my hand when needed, for your kindness and connections and for showing your heartlight as a beacon of hope for others.