To My Cancer Sisters

 photo: Raising Awareness by Fracfx

photo: Raising Awareness by Fracfx

“I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
– Carl Jung


This entry is an adapted segment of an email I wrote and sent to a friend of my parents who was scheduled for the same surgery I had, just
a few months after mine...

"We have never met. My parents and I were so sorry to hear of your news and hope that you don't mind that they forwarded your email to me. I too was diagnosed, just this past January with breast cancer. My cancer, detected early and only in my right breast — 2 legions like yours ruled out a lumpectomy which as you know meant a mastectomy. I decided to have the bilateral surgery. It was what made the most sense for me in the mish-mosh of crazy talk that also on another level made no sense at all. Breast cancer doesn't run in my family. I am and have always been really healthy (except for the ravenous sweet tooth that I developed at 40 yrs old during and after becoming a yoga teacher)!! Why me? —or you? -—or soooo many other women (and men)?

My surgery was on March 23rd. Unmarried, unattached yet sometimes still hopeful, I was a little unsure if I would feel like myself after surgery, but I TOTALLY DID! You know how amazing my parents are. They have been an incredible support and came to stay in my apartment with me in Brooklyn for 5 days! I also have 4 amazing girl friends who mothered me and kept me laughing while forming a texting chain and stay/ed in touch with me and each other. They also kept my parents company. Marie took them to dinner the night of my surgery and back to the hospital the morning after. Kym has come to every one of my appointments and since the first, full of too much information to absorb, we began our standing ritual of an early dinner & cocktails to debrief after every doctors' visit! (So fun!) Betty who is incredibly real checked in on me regularly, and Caroline whose family was simultaneously going through their own cancer related trauma offered much perspective. Outside of the devastation for sure, my personal support group has been a little bit of a party and practice of gratitude. We will be a part of yours too.

My doctors have been great and made me a part of my own care, decisions and life. [My original doctor did not, so I fired him immediately!] I am in the beginning process of reconstruction. All of this is weird science to me and brings memories of the 1970's Fembots as my once strong body seems to be turning on me and is needing to be rebuilt. No more bras forever is already the only perk, but one none the less! Know that it is important to laugh & crack jokes even if inappropriate. It is imperative and really does help. 

All of this is hard, not what I would have chosen for me or my family — nor would have you. All of it is disruptive to self, life, schedule, work and livelihood. I am angry and sad, grateful, and so very blessed — all at the same time. It is all very fresh for me, but when we realized what you were facing we wanted to offer you some support.

We hope the best for you and pray that your loved ones will stand by you for whatever you need. It is a long and rocky road and though I am only slightly ahead of you on this path and unsure what lies ahead, I know that lots of other women have done it and we will too."

 

Teri Gandy-Richardson