Ah, October. You are supposed to be cooler weather, pumpkin spice and everything nice. However, because you are Breast Cancer Awareness Month, you are also a painful reminder of my battle with Breast Cancer 5 years ago.
I was 30-years-old, entirely too young to think I needed to be worried about a diagnosis. Yet, I found a lump. Extremely long story short, I procrastinated on getting a medical examination due to my ignorance (because of my age and the fact that the lump hurt, I just wasn’t convinced having cancer was a possibility) and obligations (I was a single mom of 2 and the sole financial provider for my children). A diagnosis of Stage 3 Lobular Carcinoma, rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and one lumpectomy later, I am still here. I survived.
Although 2014 and 2015 were bleak years for me, I know I am fortunate for being alive and that most of my chest is still intact. I don’t like to talk about my battle much unless it’s with the close friends that gave me a place to live and watched my children as I went back and forth to treatment. I don’t have a supportive family and that made being sick darker and lonelier than it already was. In remission, I received many invitations to speak or attend fundraisers and events … but I struggled with feeling proud of “winning” the pink war, and I’d decline. It’s tough to feel like a winner when you feel like you just scraped by for the entire experience.
Some of my friends that held my hand during my battle called me brave, but never once did I feel like that was my truth. I cried, I screamed at God and felt pretty faithless throughout the long and sickly months. I am ashamed to admit it. I love seeing all of the Warriors in Pink who are truly inspirational because they own what happened to them and appear so much stronger than I could ever be. They are proud to wear pink ribbons. Those ladies and gentlemen don’t hide their pain but tell anyone who will listen how far they have come. These are the true survivors.
I complained whenever the chemotherapy drugs made me sick, I whined about the radiation burns, I downplay my scars and hide them behind my clothes. I’m mortified to admit that I lamented for months over my missing eyebrows and I still google micro-blading daily because I’m self-conscious about the way they grew back. These are not the traits of a survivor.
I wish I could be more like the REAL breast cancer survivors, and yet, it’s 5 years later and I’m still hiding behind my pumpkin spice latte in a corn maze this October avoiding all of the pink awareness ribbons for fear that it may make my body aware that it once had breast cancer and cancer will attack once again. Then I’ll be forced to endure that nightmare once more. I know it’s both silly and cowardly to feel this way. I guess Michael Meyers can go ahead and take a seat, for me, he’s not the scariest thing about October.
I am not a fan of the word “survivor” in the breast cancer fight. I have struggled with that word since my diagnosis. What about the women who fought to survive who have not survived? Are they any less of a survivor? Did each one not fight as hard or harder than the rest of us? We all fight the breast cancer challenges every day after a diagnosis. We all do not survive it.
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