Sixteen years ago, I heard the words, “you have breast cancer.” Two weeks later, I realized it was inflammatory breast cancer. Two weeks after that I had already completed my first chemotherapy treatment. Within those weeks, when word of my diagnosis spread, pink came out of the woodwork. I received so many items that held pink ribbons, for a person who didn’t like pink, it was A LOT! I was thankful for the thought behind them, but found it hard to describe how it made me feel.
As a person who was a wife, a mother, a friend, and a professional, I didn’t want the people I loved to see me as only as a sick person. I wanted to be a person still living her life, whatever there was left of it. I saw each day as a treat and I didn’t want to be tricked into wasting any of it.
It was tricky for me at first to learn to navigate October. Without meaning to, sometimes there can be pressure applied to be active. It can make you feel guilty for saying “no.” Yet, I have come to peace with being OK wherever I find myself on the participation scale each October. I have learned to field questions about it with this one thing in mind. I am a breast cancer survivor, but that is only part of who I am. I am a wife, a mother, a Neena (grandmother). Professionally, I am a consultant, a writer, I am active in the local business community. There are times that these things need more or less of me during October. But that doesn’t mean one outweighs the other. It means is is all a part of who I am.
That was a mantra I held onto when I was going through treatment. I would remind myself often, that I was a person who had cancer. I held onto the fact that no matter what happened, cancer would not become who I am. I would still be the same kind, caring, busy woman I was before I heard those dreaded words.
Considering the last 16 breast cancer awareness months, one thing holds true: each year has been different and I am thankful for every one. There have been years that I have been very active in raising awareness. There have been years that I have been silent and chosen not to take part in anything. Know that are times that cancer is at the forefront of our minds and lives. But there will also be times that it is okay to let it live in the back of our life. There are times that we need to focus on the other parts of who we are, and that is not a good or a bad thing, it is part of life.
This October, no matter where you are in your journey, I hope you are at peace. At peace with your choices, what you say yes or no to. At peace with who you are and the choices you make.
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