Last week marked the four-year anniversary of my diagnosis of breast cancer. It also marked the first time I forgot about the anniversary. What a treat to forget!
The diagnosis shattered me, fear swarmed like locusts, I became unsteady, I hardly spent a moment not thinking about illness and the betrayal I felt…how could my body have let this terrible thing happen when I am so vigilant? I had been my own private neighborhood watch committee, lording over my diet, my exercise, my life. And yet, it happened.
Four years out, I don’t want to think or write about fear, betrayal, or breast cancer anymore. I want to write about healing. Because that’s what happened. I healed. Last July, we went on a five day rafting trip down the Snake River in Idaho and one afternoon as the sun angled low and the light on the tawny cliffs began to shift toward orange and then fade, I turned to my husband. “I feel like myself.”
And I did. That is not to say and hadn’t felt well, happy and engaged in life, but on that day I noticed that I’d returned to dwell in my body the way I had before breast cancer. I now feel less wary. I feel comfortable. I feel healthy. I’ve heard your body regenerates every 7 years or so, well I feel regenerated after 4. I don’t know if it’s possible and I’m not going to ruin the feeling by asking Siri.
Breast cancer used to drive my car, and then it was in the back seat, then in the trunk with duct tape over its mouth. Now, I’ve left it on the side of the road. One thing I that helped me make the shift was writing. At first, my fears took over, the diagnosis took over, and I had no capacity for introspection, for examination of what was happening to me. By writing through my experience, I went from a loss of self to a changed, stronger self. And, I can almost say I’m grateful.
In any case, here I am and though I didn’t mark the anniversary with the my usual Facebook post, I’ll post it here: Four years ago I was having a mammogram that led to an ultrasound, that led to the biopsy that led to the diagnosis, surgery, chemo, that led to right now, heading out my door for a walk in the park. So grateful to be healthy and energized. I won’t lie, part of me is still stunned, frightened…but that edge is ebbing away. Women reading this, if you’ve been putting it off, get a 3-D mammogram, and if you have any family history, ask for an ultrasound. Men reading this, encourage your partners, sisters, mothers, and daughters to get screened. #lovethisday