Club Amoena 2013 Embrace Every Curve Essay Contest Winner

Amoena Life magazine conducted its fourth Club Amoena essay contest last summer and contacted the winner in October, 2013. Meet Marilyn Wattman-Feldman, 61, a longtime reader and a courageous survivor of metastatic breast cancer who has learned a lot over the years about life’s winding road. Here, she shares how she travels it with grace.

Club Amoena essay winner Marilyn Wattman-FeldmanEvery road traveled in life has a curve. In one instance, it can be a treacherous road that needs to be navigated in order to reach a new destination. Or, it can be the image of a woman staring at herself in a mirror seeing the reflection of a body that has changed, perhaps beyond recognition. Life hands us “curve balls.”

The journey from normal to a “new” normal has many such curves. What starts as a simply day can end with a horrific nightmare. Initially, hearing that I had breast cancer did not necessarily scare me since I was a daughter of a long-time survivor. But when the cancer changed direction, metastasizing to both the lungs and eventually the bones — that curve turned into a dark, terrifying path. The ability for me to see beyond that point was, at best, difficult. I would find myself on a roller coaster/merry-go-round (two rides I despise) for way too many years. Those long hours of living in chronic pain, both physical and emotional, have left their marks. Attempting to find a way out — learning to embrace a new curve, took on new meaning.

There are many words that can be shared — words meant to heal and make one feel better. I heard them all.  Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Friends and family told me “You will get better.” “You will survive.” I needed to find my own words, something I could embrace, and thus I began to say, “Everyday in every way I am getting better and stronger.”

I posted these words on my computer screen with a sticky note. I posted the words on books I read, on the tables nearby my hospital chair where I went for chemo. Everywhere I went I saw those words and they became my personal mantra. At first, they were just words I said. I felt awful. I lived in pain 24/7. While I never completely lost my hair during chemotherapy, I did get a horrific burn from radiation. I still recall the day I ripped off my bra and threw it away. The pain of wearing anything on my breast was too much. The “curve” I was on was a dead-end.

The transformation from being in that deep, dark scary place took time. To be honest, it took years. For years I lived a totally different life — I looked different. I weighed in at 186 pounds, definitely “weird” from someone who spent 99 percent of her life underweight. I used lots and lots of “drugs” — most for pain management. I discovered that there is pain beyond the standard scale of 1 – 10. When I broke my right femur (2005) and left femur (2008) the pain scale was at 100, both times. Finding a way out of this scenario — that was logical, safe, and normal — would certainly require major intervention. This came in the way of writing. I had to return to something I enjoyed. Something that brought out a passion in me. While in the deepest of depression, I stopped writing. I could not even put two words together to form a sentence. But, when I re-discovered my interest in writing, life changed. I found a new “avenue” that worked for me.

First, it was a play titled “Chemonologues” that took me two years to write and was presented as a play reading. This reinforced my self-image, allowing me to “change the curve” in my life. I also discovered a new passion. I began exercising. Water fitness, Silver Sneakers, tai chi… eventually, I moved on to Zumba and basic spinning. That 186-pound woman I did not recognize — she lost 50 pounds in one year. And now, I have discovered a new me.

The body I saw in the mirror was still misshaped; I had curves where they didn’t even belong. The mosaic of my total self was and still is a major work in progress. However, I am finally able to “embrace every cure” that comes my way. And seriously, it feels great!

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