Just surviving can be an up-and-down experience.
Khevin Barnes is a Male Breast Cancer survivor, magician and speaker. He is currently writing, composing and producing a comedy stage musical about Male Breast Cancer Awareness. He travels wherever he is invited to speak to (and do a little magic for) men and women about breast cancer. www.BreastCancerSpeaker.com www.MaleBreastCancerSurvivor.com
I've often been told by friends and family that I have a positive outlook when it comes to surviving breast cancer. But I do have bad days as well.
I really believe that my life with cancer is a life worth living, a life worth fighting for and an adventure that really offers no other option.
But cancer is such an unjust experience, such a brazen and wickedly designed test for all of us who experience the havoc it creates. I must confess, my feelings about it change all the time. How I feel physically is responsible in large part for my wavering resolve. My mastectomy scar is often noticeably uncomfortable, even though nearly four years have passed since my surgery.
And I am petrified by the MRI that requires me to lay face-down for what seems like an eternity in that long, pounding tube. But claustrophobia should be the least of my worries. After all, the possibility of recurrence is something that many of us put up with for the rest of our lives. And that uncertainty contributes to those "down days" I sometimes feel when my resolve is challenged by my anxiety.
But what about my "up days"? I'm happy to say, that they far outnumber those days that are not so good.
This is true in part because I'm well aware that even though my breast cancer was identified as grade 3, meaning it's a highly aggressive disease, I was a very lucky man to end up being given a stage 1 diagnosis.
And so, I remain generally optimistic.
But once we enter into this cancer alliance that those of us with this disease share, we are suddenly part of something that is far bigger than any one of us can ever be alone.
When we begin to cheer for our cancer colleagues, believing in their ability to survive and thrive and remain alive just like us, we create a momentum of positivity that inspires all of us. In a very real sense, we're all in this together.
I know that when my own ongoing fight for survival grows beyond myself, everything seems a little brighter. And those are the "up days" that can renew my upward movement in the march toward health and healing.
So, when a "down day" shows up for me I take a moment to sit in mediation and ask myself a few revealing questions.
How do I feel today? Which of my friends with cancer are in trauma? Who can I support? How can I help? And most importantly, for me is the question, "How can I be an advocate for cancer awareness?"
We all experience the full power of cancer's fury at times. And this day-to-day reminder becomes part of our blueprint for life. We learn to accept those predictable "down days" while welcoming the moments where cancer, at least temporarily, can simmer on the back burner.
We're climbing a peak together some of us faster or slower at times. But our goal to reach the summit in our trek to wellness is a shared objective. And that never changes, despite all of the ups and downs.