ENJOY A SPA DAY GETAWAY AND SUPPORT OTHER WOMEN
When you're battling breast cancer, your Mission... you have no choice but to accept it... is to draw upon the strength that has, actually, always been part of you. We think you deserve a medal... or at least a very fine spa day! The Young Survival Coalition deserves a whole lot of support, too, for helping women find their strength along the way.
Having lost my breasts, my hair, my brows and lashes (all the things that the world says makes us a woman), I learned about the inner beauty that lies within me. Sometimes, it takes the reassurance of family and friends to help a breast cancer patient/survivor realize it. But, I am stronger and better. I no longer look at those vanity losses as such. I gained much more in this journey than I ever imagined.
At one point during chemotherapy, I remember hearing a quote that instantly altered my perception about all that was happening: "What is to give light must endure burning." (Viktor Frankl). Burning. What a great way to describe the 'hell' that we survivors go through as we endure cancer treatments. But what struck me most about that quote was the understanding that in order to give light, you must be willing to withstand the forces that create it - no matter how intense. Before my diagnosis with breast cancer I was a fitness instructor. Body image, strength and beauty were my focus. So much so, that I fought against the nagging feeling to have a third child because it would ruin my hard-earned 'abs of steel'. But God had different plans for me, and although I wouldn't listen to His promptings, my husband did and we eventually became pregnant. Five months later, on Halloween day, we received the news that I had breast cancer. I was 31 years old with two small children and a third on the way. Truly the scariest day of my life. My focus around strength and beauty shifted as I had my first mastectomy at 6 months pregnant. Looking at myself in the mirror for the first time after the surgery was horrifying and humorous at the same time. There I was with one huge belly and one huge boob. And while my husband and I joked and made light of the situation as a way to cope with the chaos, deep inside I felt as if my worth was somehow being damaged - as if I was going to have less value in the world because of my physical appearance. While recovering from surgery, I delivered a healthy baby boy then had three additional surgeries before beginning chemotherapy when my newborn was around 8 weeks old. As the chemotherapy took it’s toll on my body, my muscles slowly deteriorated and the extra baby weight clung to me as the new chemo weight began to increase. Clearly I was no longer in control of my body - but I was still in control of my thoughts, the words I spoke and the way I acted. “Oh my friends, it’s no what they take away from you that counts. It’s what you do with what you have left.” (Hubert Humphrey) Seeing the needs of the other patients, and praying to God for direction, I decided that a little game of Chemo Bingo was in order. My thought was, that since I was the youngest person in the infusion room at the time, I could call Bingo and the patients would love it! Unfortunately, my oncologist didn’t agree - but no matter - I went back to God for Plan B and decided that if I couldn’t call Bingo, I could still give out prizes to the patients for being fighters and taking their nasty medicine. On my ‘good days’ in-between treatments, I would take my baby and 2 older children and visit local businesses & organizations requesting donations, discounts and anything else they would give me. Then before my treatments began, I would stand in front of the room; introduce myself; perform a little half time entrainment by singing everyone a song about opposition in life - how you can never truly value the good unless you’ve been through the bad - then hand out prizes. With every prize I’d wish the patient or caregiver, ‘Happy Chemo!’ Little did I know that this simple act of service would blossom into what HappyChemo.com is today. It absolutely blows my mind but is a constant reminder that we have a choice when we are faced with adversity. We can either ‘sit and stew or go and do’. And I have personally seen that is really is the ‘do’ that matters. Today as a 7 year (boobless) survivor, I understand that boobs are optional but happiness is not. Cancer, with all it’s burning, fueled my desire to help other survivors and perhaps, in some small way, let my light shine. I also have a very different view now on what defines strength and beauty. To me, true strength is the ability to endure the trials of life again and again, whatever they may be and whenever they happen - because they will happen. And beauty… well, true beauty can be summed up this way: "People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) May we ever be willing to endure what comes our way to give us the understanding that allows us all to shine brightly.
I was diagnosed at 32. I had recently divorced and went through all the motions like losing my hair and my boobs. Many surgeries and chemo. Collecting scars along the way. I remember looking in the mirror, feeling like I had been stripped from everything as a woman. Being a woman in a normal situation is hard enough the way society is today. But when you lose the things that define us as women. It is even harder. I realized I had to start changing the way I saw myself. As I began helping other women by telling my story and giving advice and pointers. I felt a huge drive and passion for making it my life's mission to uplift and inspire women everywhere. I am still fairly young, very petite and single. Finding ways to still feel sexy are not easy and it sure does make dating more challenging. When I look in the mirror I am no longer the barbie doll with beautiful boobs. I am more like a frankenstein doll full of ugly scars. But I had to change my thought process. I finally had a revelation that has led me to not only lift myself up, but others as well. I have always loved vintage things and abstract art. I would always say that a vintage piece has character. The scratches or pieces missing would give it character and it tells a story. I have always loved how abstract is far from perfection. That is how I have learned to see myself now. I am a vintage piece that tells a story. my body is abstract art on a piece of canvas. I am beautiful in my own way. I am unique and rare. So now I share my story and I work as a volunteer and as a friend to others. I am currently involved in a start up company simply for that reason. To uplift and inspire other women. I am a medical assistant and I love what I do. But I know I have so much more to give. When I was sick, fighting my battle. I had amazing support. I want to continue to pay it forward. I want to show other women that they can still be beautiful on the inside and out. Even in the midst of the ugliness this disease puts upon them. I have had the opportunity to work with a non- profit org for breast cancer. I was able to speak to other women. it was so very rewarding. I had the opportunity to do runway modeling as a cancer survivor for a fundraiser. It was an amazing feeling to feel beautiful again and to show others they too can feel this way. To be an Amoena Ambassador would be such an honor. I have always had passion and drive to make a difference. But I never knew just how deep that passion was until I was fighting my battle. The picture I chose for this speaks volumes. The shirt I am wearing says "Here, right now". I have pink boxing gloves on that says, bring it on cancer, I dare you! It is hard to live a normal life after cancer. You deal with side effects, the stress that comes with. Like possibilities of cancer coming back, etc. But I want women to know. There is life after cancer and you can be beautiful and happy. "Here, right now"! And I will do whatever it takes to help others reach that moment and continue to share the tools to stay that way!