October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Incase the universe thought it might have slipped my mind that 15 years ago I was diagnosed with this terrible disease, since then five of my girlfriends have been diagnosed with breast cancer as well. I understand their fears. I know how hard it is to think about anything other than cancer because we’re wondering if we’ll be here this time next year or five years from now.
I also know when treatment is over, it’s sometimes difficult to get on with the business of living.
While we’re grateful to have treatment behind us, it’s not uncommon for us to be scared when we’re released and ”on our own.” During treatment we had chemo and radiation and doctors who kept a close eye on the rise and fall of our cancer antigens and the state of our immune system. Even our bald head and lack of energy were tangible symbols our treatment was hard at work, killing our cancer, but what happens when treatment is over and our hair grows back? It’s easy to let our fears take over like they did at my first post treatment yoga class.
In the middle of a Sun Salutation pose, I fell to the floor like I’d been flung from a Tilt-a-Whirl.
The room was spinning; I couldn’t sit up, and I heard my oncologist’s words: “If it comes back, you’ll find it before I will.” I laid on the floor of yoga class, wondering if my cancer had already metastasized to my brain? I later learned I had positional vertigo, but it was one of many things that made me wonder if cancer would ever be behind me?
Sometimes friends and family may question why we’re not embracing our lives again? Why can’t we let cancer go and put it behind us? Since they’ve been looking forward to life returning to “normal,” often they don’t understand why we can’t move on as easily as they can.
If you’ve ever watched The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan frequently rehabilitates dogs by jerking their chain. When he wants a dog to stop one kind of behavior and adopt another he jerks the chain around their neck, forcing them out of their negative behavior. Sometimes people are like that as well. If you and/or someone you know has been through something traumatic, like cancer, perhaps you need a bridge of some kind to help you find your “new normal.” A bridge could be the help of a therapist or a cancer support group or something you’ve never done before like taking an art class or even mentoring a child who needs a role model.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau
Regarding Breast Cancer Awareness month… If you’re interested in donating to cancer research, please do not buy products with pink labels on them, thinking your money will go to cancer research because I’ve learned 95 percent of the time that does not happen. Instead what if you consider making a tax deductible donation to StandUp2Cancer? SU2C is at the top of my list of world class, dedicated, fiscally responsible organizations that have forever changed cancer research and how it is funded.