Many of you might remember my online friend from the East Coast whose fashion blog I was inspired by and who was diagnosed with breast cancer just 4 months before I was. Her own CJ paved the way for me to understand what I was up against and what was coming next. Our emails and phone calls were a safe haven for me, filled with language and acronyms that only breast cancer patients can relate to, and I often likened her to a “big sister” – like a Breast Cancer Welcoming Committee Member. She’s also the reason why I’ve been so forthcoming with my own CJ – in an effort to “pay it forward” I wanted to share my experiences and shed some light in an otherwise dark and unknown place with the hopes that it may help others like her been-there-done-that stories helped me.
And so just a few days ago marks the one year anniversary since her diagnosis. In the cancer world it’s often referred to as a “Cancerversary” – and provided her with the opportunity to reflect on this last year.
Here – in her words – taken from her blog are some of the things she’s learned:
1. Doctor’s appointments = date nights. Make it happen.
2. If you are going to get a breast lump checked out, think PANTS. NOT DRESSES. Otherwise you could find yourself clad in only high heels and a thong while clinging to metal bars high above your head as two icy metal plates squash your boobs flat in a room with the same variable temperatures as Antarctica.
3. It’s normal to think your doctors are making this shit up just to f*ck with you.
4. Flirtatiously asking the “Chief Breast Imaging Specialist” if his title is really “Chief Breast Inspector” because that’s all you can read in the folds of his lab coat while he positions the world’s longest biopsy needle above your breast is really not funny, apparently, to anyone else but you.
5. Recovering from a mastectomy is NOT like recovering from a c-section. Like, AT ALL.
6. Losing eyebrows and eyelashes is worse than losing hair.
7. If you are going to use this Brian Joseph Lash and Brow Gel to keep your eyebrows through chemo, be sure to follow the instructions exactly and use it for THE FULL 60 DAYS POST-CHEMO. Otherwise, they’ll fall out within a few days. Trust me on this.
8. It’s OK to start hating the color pink with a surprising passion.
9. If you are out and about wearing a head-scarf, you will be like an invisible person. Even if you otherwise look healthy and happy and are wearing lipstick and a cute outfit, no one will look at you because you are a BUMMER. So ditch the wig on days you need to do errands without interruptions.
10. It’s OK to not feel strong. Strength has absolutely nothing to do with it.
11. It’s OK to be annoyed when everyone tells you how strong you are. They obviously haven’t witnessed your tearful ‘why me’ Dynasty moments while you gazed at your bruised, bandaged, alien reflection.
12. It’s OK if your reflection makes you cry. It won’t always be the case. Promise.
13. Even if your pre-cancer life was all organic, paraben-free, hippy-happiness, it’s OK if you want to throttle those who suggest that vitamin C could take the place of chemo. I’m PRETTY SURE that if Vitamin C ACTUALLY WORKED, doctors WOULD USE IT.
14. It’s normal to start seeing “signs” of your impending death. As a wise woman once told me, you can’t believe everything you think.
15. It’s normal to want to see pictures of other’s massacred, post-mastectomy boobs. And it’s OK to think of these things dramatically, using terms like “massacred”.
And lastly, I want to link to her page for this incredible video she made which commemorates a year of breast cancer. Warning: it’s got some “graphic” images and I guarantee it will make you cry. But it’s incredibly moving and while I didn’t have to do chemo like she did – I’d say what she expresses in this video is spot on.