Sometimes, I forget I had cancer. That seems a strange thing to say, but it’s true. It’s been almost 10 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It seems like a lifetime ago, but every October, when breast cancer awareness month rolls around, I’m reminded of everything all over again.
When the color pink begins to color just about everything, I relive my cancer experience. It’s hard to describe, but I remember sounds, sights and smells – tangible evidence that cancer invaded my life.
Many of the physical effects cancer had on my body are still here. The scars have faded but the memories haven’t.
Each October, I think about my time in the hospital after surgery. I was in pain, but so thankful to be alive.
When I came home, I walked stooped over, partially from the surgical wounds and partially due to the dangling drainage bulbs swinging from my chest. The constant tugging of those bulbs as they filled with fluid was uncomfortable but tolerable. I did my best to accept them as a part of my healing journey.
I remember the first time I went out in public after having my breasts removed. I was so self-conscious. Using my arms to shield my chest from the view of others, I hesitantly walked with my husband into a store. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. At that point, the incisions were still raw and I was unable to wear prostheses.
A few months later, after the tender scars had healed some, I was fitted for my first pair of silicone breasts. I can still feel the weight of them against my chest as I remember feeling normal again.
I’m so grateful one specific month of the year is dedicated to breast cancer awareness even though it is an annual reminder of a difficult time in my life. It’s also a great reminder to check on friends and family members. Each year in October, I make a point of asking them if they’ve had their annual mammograms. If they have, I offer them a congratulatory hug. If not, I ask if they’ve at least done a breast self-exam. I want to make sure they are proactive in their health care.
Yes, scars heal but memories don’t. They do fade some and I’m glad they aren’t as fresh as they once were.
This month, I hope you’ll think about the positive effects of being surrounded by pink. I didn’t used to feel that way, but now I do.
October is a wonderful time of year for many as they look forward to the seasons changing, but it can also be a challenging time of year for those who’ve experienced cancer. I’d like to encourage others to be sensitive to survivors, like me, who relive our experiences every year. We may not share the memories, but they’re there. Cancer, once a part of a person’s life, impacts it unforgettably.
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