3 years ago today I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve thought long and hard about this and how to blog about it. Do I want to talk about the shock of the diagnoses? That I have no family history or risk factors that led to having cancer? The fact that at the time I had two children age 4 and 7 and I was absolutely terrified that I would never see them grow up? Do I talk about the fear and difficulties of losing my breast? Losing my hair? Losing my identity as a woman? Losing my life? Do I blog about wig shopping, head shaving and the great friends who supported me? Do I talk about sitting in the chemo room feeling I really shouldn’t be there as I look around at people that looked REALLY sick. People that wouldn’t be there next time?
I don’t want to talk about any of that. Not now. Maybe in time I’ll touch on it, but for now I wanted to share a bit of what I learned about myself. I blogged about my whole ordeal on Caring Bridge as I was going through it and it was a good way for me to express myself and my fears and frustrations. If you are looking for details of my experience that’s the place to go. Looking back and rereading what I wrote I see that I was occasionally capable of moments of clarity. Moments that have made my whole life going forward that much more certain in who I am and what it is that I want to do:
“It has been an interesting journey to discover what makes me who I am. My hair and body has nothing to do with it. I still feel the same, think the same, and act the same without hair or a breast. My self image before apparently included many unnecessary components. I’m just thankful that the stripping away of parts of me is done and at no time did I discover that I’ve lost something essential to myself.”
That was a really important discovery for me. The realization that “you” is all in your head. “You” is a summation of your experiences, your joys and sorrows, failures and successes. “You” is not your clothes, toenail color, grey hair, wrinkles, car, lego collection, big house, or spray tan. Those things are just things. So many people keep score with their stuff. The amassing of wealth is a checklist of success and it’s terrifying to think that you are worthless without all that you have created. But the fact is, you are still you. Your heart still beats, it still loves and breaks the same as it always did. Your spirit still soars to the sound of your favorite song and revels in the warmth of the sun on your skin. These little joys that we can all so easily overlook are all the more precious to me now. I savor them like chocolate melting on my tongue, like rainbows dancing in the spray of a sprinkler. Like the quick, fleeting hug from one of my children as they run by. These are the true delights in life and that’s what this blog is all about.