About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Branded with a Scarlet Letter

Just more ramblings from the mind of a crazed ex chemo patient! This has been a work in progress for some time.I have added my thoughts here and there, especaily after days when I have had to deal with those cruel people whom feel the need to "inspire" you while they are kicking and punching you! This is a very long piece to read and unless you just have time to kill, well it will take some time to get through it all. I never mean to write novels. But once I start writing it all just comes overflowing and out into my journal. So I warn you now this is a doozy.
Hope is a precious commodity. Without it, there is no tomorrow. No sunrise, no sunset. Hope is a blessing. Hope is eternal. Hope is life itself. Hope is the blessing that we breath in every morning when we wake. Hope is the prayer that goes out with each of us in everything we do. Hope inspires and hope advocates for those who have no voice. Hope reflects on loss with tenacity. Hope endeavors to hold us close when all else seems lost. When we are weary and we can no longer can hear the song life offers us, it is hope that whispers in our ears. Hope is simply believing. Hope is not the absence of fear but the absence of worrying over the things that you cannot control. Hope is found in our uncertainty and hope is found in our faith in the unseen forces that guide our way through this battlefield we call life. So then why is it that some seek to destroy hope? To abandon all that glues the soul together? I have come to believe that it is the fear of living, of feeling and of experiencing life itself they ultimately fear. For life and death are partners, we need one to experience the other.

As human beings we sometimes have a tendency to blame the sick, the injured, and the weak for their illness. As if they are to blame? I for one have come to know this recurring theme a little too well this past year on many levels and in many different people. Sadly, it is just easier sometimes for others to blame you, ignore you, or be angry with you for being sick. Your illness is now on full parade for all to see and those whom cannot "fix it" just want to sweep it under the rug as if it is a dirty little secret best left out of sight, lout of mind and out of the way! Believe me, as a cancer patient/survivor, if you could keep it out of sight and ignore it you would! But that isn't how this beast works. If you are going to survive it, you are going to have to face it head on, battle it one on one and then accept it. Yet to those that must place blame on someone or something, and there are many out there who need to blame, from those whom we love and trust to those whom pass by you in silence on the street. To them your hope is now a threat and they will do anything to destroy it. Personally I have found that once we embrace hope we overcome the need to blame and we are then able to release our anger and we find we have had faith in spite of the uncertainty all along. Hope overcomes the pain and fear of a less than perfect and failing body and ensures we partake in the many precious joys that surround our lives. Hope is the certainty that overtakes the threat of blames' void, and reaches deep within us to reconcile and restore peace within our souls.

Hope is not a cure all for the cancer that has invaded your body, nor is it a Band-Aid for the emotional pain it inflicts. No hope is believing, and believing is trusting. Trusting in the truth that even in the face of fear you will overcome. For fear is the child of blame and blame the child of uncertainty. Once you realize and accept blame is indeed the child of fear and the seed of anger, you can embrace that hope is the child of faith and faith the child of courage. Each one giving birth to the next while empowering you to press onward. In order to become a survivor you must embrace all three: hope, faith and courage.

In my own experience with this beast, I have found that at times your life may seem to become a blur. Suddenly you don't know which way is up and which way is down. You are no longer in Kansas anymore that is for sure! The wicked witch is far from dead (in fact she is green, the very same color you just can't seem to keep away from on most days) then there are those crazy flying monkeys out to get you and the yellow brick road that is full of pot holes! So what do you do? Well, you learn to cope. You find that you don't need the great wizard to help you get back home. No, what you really need to do is stare those incredible annoying parasites in the eyes, and tell them to bite you! Yep, bite you! Maybe by doing so they'll find out that you aren't contagious and they can actually hug you! By all means you are not all about your pain and suffering! You feel their pain and you really do understand just how crummy life can be. You desire to lend a helping hand and an ear when needed. The one thing you still have is compassion. But it is not compassion they want. No, they want to hang you up by your toes and let all your blood drain out! And if you really wanted to give up you might oblige them. But for now you have enough to deal with here in OZ, with the horse of different colors playing tricks on your eyes and the over bearing, always playing, "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" ringing in your ears. At some point the fairy tale ends and you get real. You have cancer, not yellow fever! You just want those that feel the need to place blame on you to stop playing this childish game of cooties! Once you begin to fight back, and take hold of what this cancer has tried to take from you, you suddenly realize just how much strength you have and you know rain or shine the show will go on!

Why all this drama? I really do not understand why this happens, but after listening to other survivors and reading message boards I know it happens everyday of every week, of every month and in every year to all too many countless cancer patients. It is part of the nature of the beast, I suppose. This sad beast may seem only small, and it may even sport a sweet face, but so did the gremlins and we all remember what trouble they caused? A beast is a beast all the same. With its long stretching arms that come to rob you of the only thing you have left, the only part of you that still has something to offer ... your hope!

Sadly, there are some that feel as crazy as it sounds, that we turn ourselves into victims by merely walking out the door looking less than perfect. As if putting on a wig and attaching fake eyelashes really disguises our illness. For reasons even unknown to those whom shun and shut you out of their perfect world, they feel as if "we," the cancer patients, woke up one day, walked up to the front of the line and freely volunteered ourselves for this fight of our lives. I mean who doesn't want to join the chemoman/woman triathlon? Flush, drip and hurl. Sounds like a load of fun to me.
But seriously, there are times when some treat you as if you couldn't wait to put on a chemo face, don a pink ribbon and head straight to the front lines of the cancer battle. The idea that we would jump up and down hooting and hollering to engage in hand to hand combat with such a deadly enemy is not any survivors idea of fun. Believe me that is the farthest idea of attention any of us have on our minds! Mostly, we are just trying to blend into society or back into our social circles. We don't want to be noticed. The attention suddenly thrown on us is terrifying. You want to go back to the dull, uneventful sense of normal life you once had. But suddenly you have no hair, no eyebrows, and no eyelashes. And believe me that is a big deal! What once made you feel young, vibrant and alive is gone. In truth, how you are sized up in society has disappeared. Your identity is gone, and along with it, your sense of expression and individuality. People stare at you as they watch your every move. You actually feel sorry for them. They stare, not because they find you attractive. No, they look because they find you strangely repulsive. Yet they can't look away the poor suckers, even though they want to. They see you as a mirror of all they fear. You are a sudden reminder of how unstable life is, and just how mortal we all really are. You really don't want to look these folks in the eyes, but you do. You do it even though inside you are struggling to meet them eye to eye. You do it for yourself, you do it for your family and you do it for every other survivor out there! You facethem, meet them eye to eye,take a deep breath, smile, take hold of your children's hands tightly and walk straight past those prejudicial stares and whispers. This is your moment, your time to leave a legacy. It is your time to offer your children courage in the face of uncertainty and in some part adversity. This is your moment as a parent to bestow on your children the greatest lesson you'll ever teach them ... hope in the face of prejudice and fear. The time has come and so you go into battle without the fear of loosing, because you have nothing more to lose.
In every survivors life you will find hope in some form or another. The smallest seed of hope planted inside you will inspire hope in others and so hope indeed lives on. There is always a reason to hope and to fight. There are always friends and family ready to hold your hand, raise your arms and carry you through the battlefield if necessary without inflicting guilt upon you for it. Even at your worst, when you feel completely spent, you somehow look up from the bottom of the battlefield and take a good look around you and find others standing beside you, behind you and some even further out in front of you. You find hope and inspiration. You feel the need to answer the call of courage as you see your own history being made right in front of you. Yes, you hear the voice of pain and of sorrow within your own spirit but soon they begin to fade. You feel hope living inside of you now and so you fight, healing as you continue moving forward through the falling rain. Hope stands, hope shines through darkness and hope lives in all those that battle along side of you, fellow survivors and dear loved ones alike. In your hope you find you are not alone and it is that knowledge that allows you to suddenly realize that you are so much stronger than you ever knew you could be!

So, with new scars you come to terms with your fate, embrace the bandanas, the swollen face, lack of facial hair (realizing just how silly you would look if you drew two little arches that remind you of a McDonald's drive -- thru on your forehead) and then you fight back. Yes, it is true you are physically scared. There is no hiding the eight inch bright red scare that sits across your chest where once a breast used to be. You proudly wear those scars. Still, in a sense you feel branded and not just in a physical sense. You know that you have also been marked by those that cannot understand your pain. You begin to view your scars as a scarlet letter that you have now been branded with. The stigma of living with cancer cuts both ways. It slices you physically and emotionally. Those who come to seek out your weakness come only to exploit it. Their only wish is to challenge all that holds hope within you. In one sense the need to push you away is strong, yet the need to try and control you, and yes even to hurt you is even stronger. You begin to feel as if you are being physically set apart, as you are at the same time being emotionally set apart in a deeper, harsher and much more personal way. You are a leper come to walk among the whole, the beautiful and the privileged.
The beast in and of itself may be small. But with it's long, reaching tentacles you certainly feel it's sting once it gets a hold of you. It takes just a tiny spark to set a field a blaze and a mere small, but loud voice in a crowd to turn it into a mob. It is in that sense that this smallest of beasts can get a hold of those that would never intend to cause harm. Truth be told most do not intend to superimpose a scarlet letter upon you, the fact is it happens. Whether it is simply the natural order of things or the fears of another you find yourself bearing a bright red letter everywhere you go. At first, you think no one knows. It is just a breast, then chemo starts. Then the world you were once apart of gives you a good, swift kick to your fourth point of contact as you look up dazed to see your life has left you behind in a world you no longer fit into. It is humbling and it is disheartening. There are times you feel the pain and you get mad, but then you harness all that guilt and blame and you set it free, push it away and set about restoring harmony to your life once again. True it will never be the same, but living life the same way everyday for the rest of your life can become rather boring don't you think? So you embrace that scarlet letter. Considerit aright of passage, right up there with learning how to walk. You may have fallen and bruised your knees but in the end you walked, and then you ran. So you decide to fight blame with hope.
No survivor asks for illness. No one wishes it upon you. Even God himself does not place this burden upon us, but merely allows us to chart through it's course. No, there is truly no one to blame and there is no way to fix it. Cancer is simply what it is,:" something evil or malignant that spreads destructively <the cancer of hidden resentment. " Cancer can be found both physically and emotionally. It eats away at you until it has had it's fill. So why give into blame? I personally choose HOPE! As I see myself now, I have come full circle and my family and friends have come full circle right along side me. I am battle ready and combat trained. I have fought and I have lost many battles along the way but I have yet to throw my sword down and give up. I am strong, but only as strong as the hope I carry inside my heart. I do not wish to engage in anymore battles, but I stand ready to run full force onto the battlefield against my near and sometimes oddly dear enemy called breast cancer!

So I say right here and now without regret to all of those courageous women, young and old a like, take heart! Don't accept blame for something that is out of your control. Make plans for the future, even if it is just one day at a day. And above all, remove yourself from those that would seek to destroy your hope! Never give up your hope and always, even when the hour is dark, hold onto your hope.

Christina Olachia


  1. That was beautifully written...you have a gift - not just your wonderful ability to write, but your ability to inspire!  -Kelly

  2. Thank you for such a hearfelt entry. I did read it all and it was well worth the read.
    I myself had a scare recently, but I was lucky in that sense. But I was not lucky with my hearing. I have been deaf now for 2 years and I still battle all the things you mentioned only on a different forum. I have since come to the conclusion it wasn't my fault I went deaf. So with that understanding if people don't have time or patience to understand I'm still struggling......they can find another door for their angst. I'm the one who has to live with this day in and day out not them. I believe it's probably the same with Cancer only the outcome is never a promise. I think in both our lives courage walks right beside hope. I've also come to realize their are a few good people out there that truly do understand. (Hugs) Indigo

  3. You are such an inspiration to many!
    Great entry...
    Never lose....Faith and Hope!

  4. Great entry.



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