As a child I was always looking for a way to find a new beginning.
I had been fighting my way out of a box, as a result of my voice not being heard. In my late 20s, I was faced with anxiety and depression, it was at that time I started to make changes within myself and pursue a different path. I struggled with a lack of confidence and low self-esteem. Fortunately, with the help of a therapist I realized that I deserved more. I began the process of digging to break my mold that wasn’t serving me, including ending my seven year marriage. I began the process of reclaiming my identity. I never looked back. A few years later, I had remarried and was in the happiest place in my life, when I became a caregiver to my mother. She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She underwent surgery and had several rounds of chemotherapy; I was faced with the reality that I was losing my best friend. My mom passed away 3 days before the birth of my first born and somewhere between bringing my infant daughter home from the hospital and sitting by my mother’s gravesite, I entered a “grief induced post-par tum depression.” This dark period of my life seemed like it would never end. It lasted for almost a year. Once I emerged from this dark cloud, I felt I had no choice, but to turn all of my negative life events into positive ones. Since making this conscious choice, many doors have fortunately opened for me. I became involved in fundraising for women’s cancers; initially it was a coping tool to keep the memory of my mother alive and later it was a vehicle to deal with my loss. It also gave me a sense of purpose in serving others. I became very proactive in my own health and decided to face my own mortality. I underwent genetic testing. Despite the lineage of cancer in my family, I tested negative for the BRACA gene mutation. Almost a decade after my mom passed, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Emotion overcame me and I was in shock with thoughts of what happened with my mother. My sister showed me a different path. The following year I received my own diagnosis: Stage 1 invasive lobular cancer. My sister and I figured we had a high probability of getting ovarian cancer, but not breast cancer. I remember exactly where I was the day my diagnosis was confirmed and I looked at my husband and said: “This isn’t cancer; this is the boob job I have always wanted!” It was at this stage in my life that I realized I needed to dig even deeper now. I was “hard wired” for change and thankfully, I came to the conclusion that I no longer wanted to be running around 24/7 doing what I “thought” needed to be done.
Ironically, my diagnosis of breast cancer was a blessing.
I looked at my reasons for how I was living. I started to make choices breaking my old beliefs and thought patterns while coming up with new rules for living life on my terms! It wasn’t easy and I always, will remain on my journey. However, those words that I spoke to my husband, became my mantra for a positive mindset in dealing with my disease. By anchoring into those initial positive thoughts, I was able to set the tone for how I would face a double mastectomy, followed by emergency surgery, bi-weekly expansions and several reconstruction procedures. As I maintained that positivity and gained a new confidence in myself, I decided I was going to opt for the “Cadillac” of reconstruction, because I had value. I was 48 years young, so the additional surgery was worth it! This isn’t to say that I didn’t struggle emotionally and physically throughout my journey. I did, but it was my clear, conscious choice that navigated my journey, to face each emotion as it came up and see it through, thereby turning cancer upside down!
I experienced the myriad of emotions that all cancer patients do: fear, anger, grief and acceptance.
I went beyond my comfort zone and enlisted the support of others. I brought them into my life, because I wanted others to see me when I was most vulnerable. I wanted and needed help! I made a pact with myself to practice self-care, so I could take the time I needed to heal. Once I was ready, I took baby steps toward reclaiming my life post cancer. This allowed me to recover both mentally and physically. Generally, I don’t worry about recurrence, because I live in the present. I focus positively on how my life has transformed post diagnosis and my exciting vision for the future
I have walked in your shoes and I am here to help facilitate your journey; let me walk with you!