Surviving – we all do it. We survive so many different things in our lives. Today is October 31. It’s Halloween and we won’t be home for the kids tonight as we are on vacation this year. What doesn’t take a vacation is breast cancer, or for that matter any type of cancer, and this is also the last day of #Pinktober and I am inspired to write.
I just started my 23rd year of thriving after walking through the flames of the pink fire too many of us have had to walk through. Many of us made it and the extinguished the flames, others did not.
I had what is called survivor’s guilt for quite a while. I couldn’t understand why I made it through and others, with a similar diagnosis and stage of breast cancer did not. I vividly remember the day Linda McCartney died – it was April of 1998 and I was 5 years out of treatment. My caring Oncologist called me on the phone that afternoon to ask me how I was doing. She knew that many of her patients were feeling like I did, stunned and in disbelief. Same diagnosis, same treatment, same treatment plan after diagnosis, she died, we lived. Why?
When I was first diagnosed I was living alone in Richmond, VA., and my work took me all over the country to of all places, different hospitals. I was a corporate consultant for a huge hospital chain and it was my job to find errors within individual hospitals. When the call came that my mammogram was highly suspicious for breast cancer I returned home immediately. After being diagnosed and getting all scheduled for surgery and post-op treatment I had time to try to find answers as to why I had breast cancer.
Did I get it because I chased the mosquito spray trucks down the road as a child? Evidence showed that DDT binds to fat cells in our bodies, and our breasts are filled with fat cells. Did I get it because I would run into the shoe department at Sears Roebuck and put my feet into the machine that actually x-rayed my feet in my shoes. As I bent over to look at my feet my chest was also in the field of x-rays and my brother and I put our feet in that machine all the time. Thank you Buster Brown and your dog Tag. Did I get it because some of my family is from Eastern Europe and Jewish? Genetic testing later told me I was negative for the BRCA genes but there are other genetic markers still undiscovered.
I made an appointment with an Episcopal priest to discuss with him a book I read at the time. I searched and searched for the title of this book to no avail today. It was co-authored by a surgeon and a priest and they discussed medical reasons and religious beliefs about cancer. I wanted to discuss this more. We talked over tea, and I left with no definitive answers but it gave me that moment we all go through. He and I prayed together and of course I bargained with God promising to do better, be better and always be there for other people in breast cancer.
My own Oncologist told me my cancer was very slow growing and possibly had been in my breast for 10 years. He asked me what happened in my life 10 years ago. As I told him my story of of my marriage, my children, death and destruction and more, he just looked at me with one of those “well it’s possible” looks on his face.
It’s my 23rd year – and I like the number 23. Michael Jordan wore it and I saw him play many times when I lived in Chicago. LeBron James wears it, and he is my star athlete, plays for my hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. I think I may wear it myself this year because this is the year I sit down and write my story. You know that God promise I made – well I was called on to deliver on it almost immediately, and I answered the call to deliver over and over wondering when it would be my turn to heal. Now in looking back I realize that was my healing time, that was my mission, I promised to pay it forward, and I still do.
Today a friend from Facebook, whom I have yet to meet, re-posted a blog I wrote about her biopsy last year. Her name is Patti Hughes and my plan is to meet her and sit down with her because she honors me every year when she shares one of my two articles about her and her dear friend, Patty who did not make it through the pink flames as a thriver. This is the year I write my feelings, the year I talk to others, the year I travel back in time and open the door to many things some people will not like that I feel all played a part in this whole number 23 experience.
Thank you Patti Hughes and thank you readers for supporting me here, and on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/afterbreastcancerrevivingsurvivingthriving
Come visit the page, it’s a safe page, no selling, just inspirations and thoughts.
Now did you have your mammogram this year? Did your wife, girlfriend, mother, sister, and any other female in your life? Just for the record my husband had 4 mammograms for a lump that turned out to be just fine. Early detection – our only protection.