Heighten Your Awareness
October is for fall, for colorful leaves, pumpkins...... and breast cancer awareness. The first three mentions I'm actually quite fond of! The latter....well, it's complicated. Pre Cancer this month to me meant various cancer fundraising races, buying the yogurt or whatever products at the supermarket with the pink ribbons displayed so predominantly, wearing pink to the "pink out" events and more or less rah-rahing my way through the month trying to show my support for those diagnosed with breast cancer. Now that I'm on the other side, what I know to be true is that this month is harsh. It is triggering and it is full of the unfortunate realization and constant reminders that this damn disease shatters all the things you once knew to be true. Yes, having had cancer has elevated my life and my character to a level that could not have happened if not for my diagnosis. While that is true, I would remind you all that as individuals we choose how to respond and what to do with our breast cancer story....I do that, me! Cancer might have pushed me sooner than I would have liked to honor and speak up for myself in the most profound way possible, but it's because I have found within myself something quite magical. It's definitely not because of my cancer, it's because of me, the woman I am choosing to become. My close to four years immersed in this breast cancer experience never was made better by a sparkling tutu, pink ribbon yogurt container or any of the chants heard at a road race. I'm not saying those things don't matter, they serve a purpose, but real change and heartfelt response is the kind of thing that makes an actual difference to those of us in the trenches. Real life support, strong shoulders to cry on, deep meaningful conversations, feeling alive! Tears, laughter, fun....(lots of it), being seen, heard and reminded that my life, my existence, matters. These are the kinds of things that matter in the world of breast cancer survival. I feel like it needs to be shouted from the rooftops that this month and this "awareness" goes beyond early detection. Yes, knowing your body and advocating for yourself is so important! Finding my lump and knowing something was "off" saved my life. Literally. If I had waited even a little bit longer to find help, my stage 3 diagnosis I know with all of my heart would have been worse. So keep checking and questioning and mammogramming (is that a word??)!! But we need to elevate the conversation to the many other facets that make up breast cancer. We need and we deserve more.
My hope here today is that I can elevate us all to just know more and do better. Let's heighten our awareness together.I don't have all of the answers, but I do have years of experience, still treading in the deep waters of treatment and survivorship, that I think merit knowing a thing or two on the subject matter. Here are some important facts that I want us all to understand:
*Treatment does not end just because one finishes chemotherapy or radiation. Treatments also come in the form of surgeries, clinical trials, injections, daily medications, frequent scans and so much more. For some, there is no "ending point". Please keep supporting and know that we keep going on despite an outwardly appearance of it all being behind us.
*Seeking emotional support is common and quite honestly necessary for many survivors. This does NOT make you weak, it makes you human. There is room for the dark just as much as the light. It all serves a purpose and can help us uncover beautiful truths that we would perhaps never know about ourselves.
*For every pink out event, is a family mourning the loss of their loved one, a survivor barely holding it together or a metastatic patient realizing this will just not go away. Please be mindful of the celebratory nature that Pinktober brings and how it is perceived and honestly how difficult it is for so many.
*Early detection is amazing and life saving for sure! But more needs to be done for metastatic breast cancer research and ultimately for a CURE. Also, Let's dig in and find out why the incidence rate is what it is and let's fight harder to not just TREAT breast cancer, but eliminate it. This industry as it is, screams big business that is ruining so many lives on a daily basis. Enough is enough. We need safer products, environmental research and just help! (Soap + Box meet Mia .... sorry not sorry).
*Mammograms are not always the best and only form of detection. You still need to do self checks and pay attention to your body. I found my lump. Me. It took so much courage to make the call to get it checked. It also took so much courage to show up and face the music. All these years later, I still amaze myself at how strong, brave and gracefully I can keep taking the hits. You are capable and you are worthy of taking care of you. You have this one life....take care of yourself. Period.
*My greatest piece of advice is to use this pink month as an opportunity to reach out and tell someone impacted by breast cancer that you care about them. Take them to lunch, send them a funny meme, just show that you care. This journey can be so lonely despite the greatest intentions of others. Let's start the movement of going beyond "thoughts and prayers" and move instead towards "showing love and taking action". A hug, a smile, an "I"m so proud of you"....it just goes a long, long way. We appreciate your willingness to meet us where we are...more than you know.
My name is Mia. I found out that I had cancer before the age of 40 which is rare. I had ZERO risk factors at the time of my diagnosis for breast cancer. For me, there was no genetic link resulting in this fate. I am a stage 3 breast cancer survivor and hopeful, someday soon, thriver. I am high risk for recurrence and high risk for surgical complications. I still stand by the fact that my diagnosis does not and will not define me, but it has elevated me in all areas of my life. I laugh harder, cry longer, dream bigger, love deeper and believe that this voice of mine will someday, somehow spark the change that is needed to blaze the trail for future young women having to shockingly go down this path. I'm using this Breast Cancer Awareness Month to honor my journey and the experiences of those who have been blazing their own trails. It's not easy being the face of breast cancer or sharing our vulnerabilities, but maybe, just maybe our strength and experiences really will help someone, someday create their own survival guide.
"When you stand up in front of the world unafraid to express your truth, you clear an easier path for others to do the same." -Stacie Martin
Much love in pink, purple, black, green or whatever damn color you choose.....-M
P.S. My wig's name is Journey...she is my hero because she was my armor. Shiny, beautiful, steadfast armor. I'm forever grateful for her and the strength and superpowers she brought to me. She sits on her perch in my closet as my reminder that the answer to any of my challenges in life, is to just "do you". Love you girl....always.