So. Much. Pink (Part 1)
October for me is when I look forward to pumpkin patches, pulling out my fuzzy slippers, rockin' the latest beanies and finally feeling good about switching over to a hot (rather than iced) coffee. Last year was my first October as a breast cancer survivor. It. Was.Brutal. For starters, I was knee deep in radiation treatment and radiation burns for that matter.I haven't given much attention to my radiation experience because it came at a time when I was a little exhausted from the constant state of fight or flight I had been living in post chemo, surgery and sepsis, so I just went with it. I had some really tough side effects and experiences, but I had the greatest team of nurses and techs that I was with every single day and I truly looked forward to our daily banter. Angels. I will save that story, however, for another day. What I was finding out last October, was that everywhere I went and just about every commercial on TV I saw was about breast cancer. I couldn't escape it. I didn't want to be ungrateful about the funds people were raising for the breast cancer cause or the attention that was given to the importance of getting your breast health in check, but it was just hard on me. It wasn't until about 4 months later when I was connecting with other survivors, as well as, talking with my oncology team that I realized it wasn't just me feeling the October dread. There is a thing called "Pink Fatigue" and it is real. It's taken me a lot of reading up on it, going to therapy and reflecting on why this month is so hard for me to realize it is because it's a constant reminder of the worst day of my life. Finding out I had cancer felt like a complete death sentence initially. Even though my rise and the strength that I've gained since is unmatched, the downward spiral was debilitating. The celebratory nature of people wearing pink and the 'rah rah-ness" (yes I made that word up) of it all is completely exhausting. I'm well aware of how cancer has and is impacting my on a daily basis without the daily reminders coming from every angle. Add to it that once the month is over and everyone goes on their merry way, I am left still battling and still trying to deal with the aftermath of all of the crazy that breast cancer has thrown at me. I guess I kind of feel like the Breast Cancer Awareness Month Grinch....so be it. Now that I've been able to pinpoint what was getting to me about all of this, I'm deciding to take back my power. I"m going to focus on the good, not the obvious bad. I'm dedicating 3 posts this month to what Breast Cancer has given me. The beautiful lens I see life through and the incredible experiences I have had that came at a price, but in some ways made it well worth it. I"m definitely acknowledging the negative impact it's had, obviously, but choosing to give power to the moments and experiences that I am grateful for having had makes it seem like I'm winning here, not my cancer. Without it, I wouldn't be who I am today. She really is growing on me with each day that passes. So here goes....
Part 1.... I am grateful that I am able to truly value a moment. Both big moments and insignificant ones. I used to just go through the motions of life, enjoying it, but not really embracing it. This morning, in the movie that is my life, I was making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my eight year old's lunch box. As I was spreading on the PB, I had a moment, a glimpse of the movie playing in my head where I was hurriedly getting ready for work, making a sack lunch for one child, calling to another to get a move on and instructing my five year old to get on his jacket so I could drive him to preschool. This movie, this one I've watched on Lifetime and on the big screen with stars like Kate Hudson or Julia Roberts a million times over was what I was living. Now, by no means am I comparing myself to these mega movie stars, but the point is this is the stuff we watch and adore and dream of being able to do. When I received my diagnosis, I was afraid that I wasn't going to be here to do this. Old me just would have done it and felt a little crazy juggling so much all before 8am. This new me, realized that I survived what I thought was going to take me away from these little, yet significant moments that I always wanted to have. It made me feel genuine gratitude for that damn PB &J and an overwhelming feeling of peace that my kids have me for another day on this earth. Thank you, cancer, for instilling in me the ability to just pause and know that whatever moment I find myself in, is a gift. The "I love you's" both said and received mean a little more. Doing and experiencing rather than just observing has become automatic. Song lyrics that hold meaning to me resonate more passionately. My loving embraces linger a little longer. The security I once felt for living a long life is no longer there, however, I'm able to not let life pass me by in the way it once did. In this respect, the gain far out weighs the loss. -M