I have been so busy blogging about our upcoming art show, working on our upcoming Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, talking to some newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, keeping my Triple Negative Breast Cancer Group running, helping with the media posts for Queen City in Pink for CREW and breast cancer awareness month, and working – I forgot what tomorrow is. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary to what I hope was my last breast cancer surgery ever. I cannot believe that one year ago right now I was sitting where I am right now, blogging about the surgery I was facing the next day, and getting myself psyched up to be put back together – once again.
What a year it’s been! My reconstruction still looks terrific – thank you Dr. Appel – you ARE the best plastic surgeon in the world. My granddaughter was born, we had a very successful Strides year, I lost two friends to triple negative breast cancer, and several of my friends have been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. What a year indeed.
There are some days – usually in September and October that all I can see or think about is PINK. But after October passes and life eases into November, the PINK starts to fade and my life goes back to a more normal pace. Sometimes these days are heavy – but all I need to hear is that I have helped someone with a breast cancer question, issue, or hard time – and my load is suddenly lighter! It is amazing being able to help people in their darkest times and know that in some small way, I made a difference.
My friends worry about the “cancer load” the “cancer life” the “negative cancer impact” that surrounds my life and takes up my evenings and a lot of my heart. But if anyone could see inside me they would know that this is really what I am supposed to be doing. Not forever; but for today – and tomorrow too. I am making a difference in the lives of people in a sad and scary time. Yes there is loss and heartbreak sometimes, but the bonds of friendship I have formed with women from all over have far outweighed the loss. I would rather have had these women in my life and gotten to know them, than to never have met them at all. Hands down, this is the most amazing part of my own cancer diagnosis. And I have my survivor friends; the amazing friends who have survived cancer and kicked butt. These women inspire me every single day.
I sat next to my friend Leigh tonight at my Strides meeting and we were all talking about the survivor reception being held in two weeks. Leigh usually volunteers at this event each year but this year, she will be going as a survivor. You see, she was diagnosed this summer and is in the process of having reconstruction now. I didn’t overlook that message tonight, that feeling that something was tugging at my heart that needed to be said. So here I sit in the same chair I sat in a year ago. Last year I was facing reconstruction again, this year I am happy and healthy and moving forward. Last year Leigh was in Africa on a mission trip and this year she has expanders in her chest and is facing more surgeries.
So I have to say, I have cherished my moments from last year to tonight – the ups and downs of life. We all have them – it just boils down to what you learn from these ups and downs and what you do with that knowledge. Me? I am, for now, staying in the breast cancer arena and looking forward to breast cancer awareness month. I have several opportunities to speak in public and while I am up there, doing what I do, I am going to shine the light on triple negative breast cancer and I am going to remind every single person in the room to get their mammograms, do self exams, and get clinical breast exams. And if you happen to be a male in the room – I want you to ask your daughter, your sister, your Mom and your wife. You would be amazed at the people who are just not taking this disease seriously. Early detection saves lives. And personally, I think I know life is far too precious to ignore those three simple questions. When I wake up tomorrow I know that my heart will be full and I will be thankful that I have had another year to make memories.
Get your mammograms people. Do self exams at the same time every single month. And remember to get your clinical breast exams. Please.