Well, it’s October, which means it’s breast cancer awareness month. Which also means I sort of feel obligated to write something, anything to acknowledge it.
But the truth is breast cancer awareness month no longer means the same thing to me as it did before my diagnosis. From now on, breast cancer awareness will be every single day for me. For the rest of my life.
Every single day, for the next 9 years and 11 months, I will take a pill to remind me that I am still fighting off cancer long after the actual cancer is gone, the surgeries are done, and the doctor appointments have slowed.
Every month, for the rest of my life, I’ll have to give myself an exam to feel for inconsistencies and possible recurrence. I have to learn what my body feels like backwards and forwards. I never did it before, but I can guarantee you I’ll be doing it now.
Every 6 months for a couple of years, I will see my oncologist to follow up and make sure I’m doing okay. That will eventually slow to once a year, but if/when I ever get pregnant, it will ramp up again. I will be closely monitored by my oncologist because of the cancer-feeding hormones that will be running rampant throughout my body. I can no longer take birth control, and the new medicine I am on makes it very dangerous to get pregnant, so every move I make regarding pregnancy has to be calculated and carefully thought out from beginning to end.
Every day for the rest of my life, cancer will be constantly on repeat in the back of my mind. Yes, the voice will (hopefully) quiet down to a whisper at some point versus the scream that it has been (and still is) for the past 6 months, but it will probably never not be on my mind in some form or fashion. I will always be waiting on it to come back.
So, I’ve decided to take this month of October and keep it for myself. Most of you reading this are already aware of the risks of breast cancer and that you should ask your doctor for a mammogram and not take “no” for an answer. So instead of spreading “awareness,” I’m going to work on accepting myself again. Accepting my new state of being emotionally and physically.
I have new scars staring me in the face every time I take my clothes off. I have no feeling in the skin on my chest. I can’t remember what it feels like to wear a bra. I don’t even know what it feels like to really hug someone anymore. Not just because I can’t feel it, but I’m also afraid of making someone uncomfortable if I hug too hard or too close because my expanders really are stiff as rocks and I don’t want to “stab” anyone. And all of the emotions I’ve had over the past 6 months have made me somewhat numb to other feelings, and maybe even other people as well.
I expect some of this to get better with time, but I’m going to take the month of October to just be aware of all of it. I’m going to learn to love my scars and prepare for the new ones to come with the next surgery. I’m going to stop overthinking and just hug people full-on even though I can’t feel it. I want to learn to live in my feelings again. To take the time to recognize what I’m feeling and when, to acknowledge those feelings and maybe even enjoy them again.
So, my October will be about healing and making people aware that healing is a long and difficult road. Especially when the cause for the healing is still a long and difficult road with no real end in sight.