Mention breast cancer — or any type of cancer — and the term “battle” often becomes part of the conversation.
I never thought about my breast cancer as a battle in the beginning, more than likely because I declined chemotherapy and took an alternative holistic approach.
However, the initial news did remind me of a drive-by attack; the kind where a dark sinister sedan drives alongside an innocent vehicle and opens fire.
The doctor’s words, “It’s cancer” pierced my psyche as surely as a bullet penetrates its intended target, shattering what moments before had been an ordinary life. Yet, once the trauma of surgery — and all that it entailed — was past, I tried to focus straight ahead.
Too often my gaze was into a full-length mirror where the full impact of cancer’s aftermath had hit its mark.
“You need to look at yourself differently,” the physical therapist gently advised as she massaged the thick scar tissue while tears slid from the corners of my eyes. “You’re never going to look exactly the same anymore, but you’re still you — just different.”
My despondent — and maybe cynical — expression had her trying a different avenue.
“For instance, let’s say you were a bus,” she paused, trying to think of an equivalent, “and now you’re a street car. They’re different from each other, but are basically the same.”
I lay there soaking in her words, realizing that if there was going to be a battle ahead it was going to be with my emotions and self-acceptance.
I reflected on what my body had been before cancer gave me a few dents and what it looked like now. Instead of getting up in arms about my exterior, I should be thankful. The journey ahead would bring the opportunity to live, to be a survivor.
Almost nine years later, I’m still on track with gratefulness.