Sunday, October 2, 2016
Life Lesson #72 ~My Struggle Is Not My Identity
Breast Cancer Awareness Month Begins...
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If I’m being real with you I have to admit October is one of those months I don’t know how to feel about. On one hand I find myself nauseated by so much pink. After all I personally do not identify with the color pink. On the opposite hand I am strangely comforted by the color pink everywhere. It's an awkward combination of UGG and AWE for me. Despite the internal struggle, I am however very thankful for the awareness this month brings to such a devastating disease. Yesterday, it struck me how far I’ve come and I found myself reflecting. I mean it’s been a decade, a full 10 years God has graciously given me since I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer at the age of 32. I’ve lived a whole other lifetime since that fateful day. Talk about a wake-up call. Invasive breast cancer was not something I had on my bucket list, wasn’t even close to being on my radar. Let’s be real, who in their right mind wishes for cancer anyway? I mean who gets breast cancer at the age of 32? Oh, ya, this girl apparently. There was no family history; I wasn’t at risk. Now some 10 years later, looking at the scars across my chest, I know how blessed I am to be here today writing this very blog.
Truthful I don’t think about that day, or my fight with the beast too much. I acknowledge the place cancer had in my life. I just don’t give the beast any more attention than is absolutely necessary. Why, well because even though she’s branded me, she doesn’t own me. I am a survivor, not a victim. It’s not that I don’t reflect on my journey, it’s just I’m not wrapped up in reliving the battle over and over again on a daily basis. I am too busy living, appreciating this extra time I have. I’ve never been defined by my cancer. This battle with breast cancer may have defined my vision in many ways, but cancer has never had the right to define who I am. I’m just of the mindset we should “wear our tragedies as AMOUR, not shackles.” Looking back in retrospect I’m a completely different woman than I was before a breast cancer diagnosis. And the truth is I will never be the same again. Once you face death and her cohort’s this thing we call “limits” no longer has any bearing on your life anymore. You’re reality is simply to live each day knowing you’re dying and continue to live as if you aren’t. It’s kind of like looking death straight in the eye and pulling a Robert De Niro from meet the Parents. You have to show your strength and while you’ve got your eye on her let her know she's not getting through the front door without a fight.
As a mother I fought very hard for my children to see strength. I was not about to allow this stupid cancer attacking my body to take anything else away from their childhoods. Knowing I had cancer was enough, seeing my body fade was beyond cruel but watching me wither away emotionally and mentally was not going to happen. As Alexander Beresnevich once said, “I won’t just survive. Oh you will see me thrive. Can’t write my story I’m beyond the archetype. I won’t just conform no matter how you shake my core. Because my roots, they run deep” So yes, let me make this very clear, I am not cancer’s _______ (insert whatever word you like, I’m going to stick with pansy). Breast Cancer is a part of me, but she is not all of me. This beast in no way makes up all of who I am. I am strong because I had to be. I was strong because I had no choice. I wasn’t just a young woman when I was diagnosed; I was a mother raising two young children. I had no other choice but to fight and by God’s grace I not only survived I thrived. Many times people ask me what I wanted most in those moments. I’ll tell you, I wanted to see my boys become men. I asked God just one request the day I was given the diagnoses of invasive breast cancer and that was to see my children, our boys grow up. And now some 10 years later I have been given this gift. I have been able to watch my son’s graduate high school, start college, get their driver’s license, find and yes lose first love and start independent lives of their own. How could I ask for any more?
No, I didn’t ask for cancer but I got it anyway. Cancer wasn’t some fuzzy warm little trip into a fantasy land of woe is me. No cancer came in like a wrecking ball. Cancer was a pain in the butt. Cancer, chemo, surgery hurt like a son of a gun. My veins gave out; my breast was literally removed and disintegrated. Poison known as the Red Devil, now that should say enough right there and TAC was pumped through my body. ALL my hair fell out, every last piece from the top of my head to my ankles. I crawled up stairs on my hands and knees and I hugged every toilet between here and there. Cancer is not a pretty sight. Cancer is the devil. And truthfully cancer isn’t for the weak, but it sure likes to take us down doesn’t she? Breast cancer is not a romantic tale of heroism fueled by praise and awe. Cancer is a terrible, horrific battle which many times breaks the strongest of the strong. I can’t count how many folks through the years have questioned my strength. Thinking they would handle a breast cancer diagnosis differently if it were them. They’d be a bit more somber, serious they say. Good for them I guess. I for one would never want to face anything as terrifying as cancer without a sense of humor. So let me be clear here, I am not laughing at the beast, I am laughing in spite of her. Humor has and will always be my backbone. Learning to laugh at myself and the absolutely horrific and unimaginable things that cancer brought to the table was essential to my own personal well-being. I identify with Christina Applegate so much when she says, “I laughed more in the hospital than I have in my life, making fun of all the weird things that were happening to me. “ Cancer does that to you. Without humor, cancer will devour and destroy your spirit. While I would never ask for cancer, or fake it, or go looking for it for that matter, I am grateful for the dance. I learned more about my strengths and who I could be in spite of what cancer thought she could take from me.
Life Lesson #72 ~ my struggle is not my identity, my diagnosis does not define me, but my battle with breast cancer does. Facing breast cancer changed me in many ways, shaped me into a warrior, a fighter and a survivor. I will never forget the battle I fought, I can’t. But I can live; I can take part in every moment I’m given in its absence. See I choose to live my life in such a way cancer can never touch my soul even if she claims my body. One of the verses I held closest to my heart during my personal battle with breast cancer was Psalm 18:39. It says this, “You give me strength for the battle and victory over my enemies.” Faith has and will always be my greatest source of strength. Faith is the ability to believe in what you don’t see. Trust is the ability to have faith in what you know. So yes, you can bet your bottom dollar I will put my battle amour on ready to face a beast I cannot fully comprehend when called to the battlefield every time. Why, it’s simple. I have faith in a God I cannot see because I have complete trust in a Father whose love I know.
So at the end of the day, when we add our pink ribbons everywhere don't lose sight of the fighters, the survivors or those taken from us way too soon. They are the REASON we wear pink. Just remember when you sport your pink keep in mind for those of us with a claim mark across our chest, it’s an absolute reality, not a social cause. As survivors and fighters we are far more than a color could ever reveal. We are your mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, fathers and sons. We are not cancer’s buddy, and cancer is not our trophy for a race we had no intention of running. What we are, is proof cancer can’t take down the human spirit.