I cherish the moment I found support and realized I wasn't alone. Giving back in gratitude for that support was the next step in healing from my cancer.
A seven-year breast cancer survivor, Debbie Woodbury writes and speaks about the emotional fallout of living with cancer. Her books, You Can Thrive After Treatment and How to Build an Amazing Life After Treatment (Amazon), share simple secrets to creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy beyond cancer. Debbie blogs at WhereWeGoNow.com and you can find her writing at Positively Positive and the Huffington Post.
I had my mastectomy on a Wednesday. I think it was Friday morning, when the anesthesia finally wore off, that I had my breakdown.
Not being in my right mind, I could be wrong.
What I know for sure is that cancer had been eating away at my emotions for the past six and a half months, and I was completely devastated. It didn’t take much for all those tubes and bandages, and a missing breast, to push me over the edge.
I was no longer able to cope. Worse, I was terrified I would be discharged into the void and left to face my mental, emotional and physical recuperation completely depleted and alone.
Suddenly a nurse walked into the room and introduced herself as my patient navigator. She sat beside my bed and told me about cancer support services available to me even after I left the hospital. (It was the first time in six and a half months that anyone discussed support services with me.)
As we talked, I went from hopelessness and isolation to connection. After I left the hospital, I started showing up for every support service I could. I signed up for support groups and rehabilitative exercise classes. I met regularly with my patient navigator and committed to seeing a therapist once a week for a year.
My cancer center became my home away from home. I was filled with gratitude and found myself saying “thank you” a million times a day. But, as time went on, I was filled with an overwhelming desire to give back and needed to do more.
Which didn’t come easily.
At first, I just didn’t have the energy to give back. I was frustrated, but my therapist assured me I had to focus on my own healing and then, when I was ready, opportunities to give back would appear.
Of course, she was right and eventually, opportunities fell into my lap – encouraging other survivors, volunteering with the Cancer Hope Network
, working as a patient educator with the Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project and creating WhereWeGoNow,
to name just a few.
Recently, I signed on to work with CureClick and serve on its Advisory Board. As a CureClick Trial Ambassador, I use social media to reach out to cancer patients to let them know about clinical trials. So far as a result of my efforts, two people have qualified for a clinical trial for people with HR+, HER2- Breast Cancer, which you can read more about here.
As I reach out and give back, I think about what it meant to me to find support. Giving back in gratitude for all the support I received is healing, or as Maya Angelou said, “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
Is giving back been a part of your healing from cancer? Tell me about it in the comments, I answer every one.