A breast cancer survivor describes a project she participated in — the Dear Body Project — to thank her body for all that it has endured.
You held space for me during my cancer experience — you were beaten up, cut open, managed infections, lost lymph nodes, experienced numerous surgeries — and you continue to carry me to be present and able to love my family and experience life just a little longer.
The scars tell a story, and your journey has led to incredible new supports and has opened new doors to experiences in life. You learned who is supportive and who is not and value the individuals who were present during your experience and who are still present in your life today.
I am a mother, wife and therapist who is sexy, empowered, human, peace and love — and I have been included in the statistic of being one in eight women to develop breast cancer.
This year, I participated in the “Dear Body” project with BRCAStrong. My daughter and I traveled to Coconut Creek, Florida, and met with Tracy Milgram, the founder of BRCAStrong, for the project, which she created to document and help women heal though photography and by telling their story and journey as it relates to breast cancer.
Other women were present, including women who have the BRCA gene and who have undergone preventive surgeries and some who may not have the BRCA gene, but who have experienced a cancer diagnosis. Some women were still undergoing treatments and others had completed their procedures and any required treatments.
The experience was about sharing your cancer journey and writing to your body. My daughter wrote the words I described in the above paragraph on my back, and she supported me yet again in my journey of healing. She was 11 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and this project allowed for another way to support healing as mother and daughter, as she is now 17.
It also gave me a chance to further educate my daughter about early detection and the importance of monthly self-breast exams and when she may need to begin to have an annual ultrasound to detect for deeper changes to her breasts as she ages.
My photograph pose was done in tripod pose and the words were written on my back as I am looking in some ways to put cancer behind me. Tripod pose was chosen by me as I became a registered yoga teacher during my journey to help with my emotional, physical and mental healing. Being upside down represented the feeling of having my world quickly turned upside down when diagnosed, but yet representing strength and resilience.
I am grateful for the experience of being part of the “Dear Body” project. It helped me feel a bond and create what feels like yet another sisterhood with women who have learned they can cope with and eventually overcome challenges they may never have dreamed of having to experience, along with visually sharing a story about my journey.
With thanks to programs such as BRCAStrong, women like myself learn they do not have to manage a diagnosis related to breast cancer alone. My joy became even brighter when in mid-December I received a package in the mail containing a 2022 calendar. The calendar has pictures of various women who have participated in the project, and when flipping to November, I found my own picture being used for the month.
The calendar, from what I understand, is meant to serve as a reminder of the ability to manage a previvor or breast cancer diagnosis and to practice a monthly self-breast exam. While I can’t change the fact that I have had breast cancer, maybe I can help someone in early detection and to have a better prognosis with the aid of the calendar.
Thank you to Tracy for coming up with such a useful and healing project. If sold, I understand the proceeds of the calendar will be used to help fund the cost of pre-mastectomy care kits that BRCAStrong has been mailing and providing for women facing upcoming surgeries related to a cancer or previvor diagnosis.
If you are in need of support, consider reaching out to BRCAStrong or many other numerous support groups for various topics and needs they may address. These days, with the help of social media, it is truly much easier not to have to be isolated in your journey of a breast cancer diagnosis and the emotional and physical healing that goes along with it.
May 2022 bring health and wellness to many and may research continue to pave the way to more supportive treatments and procedures until all types of breast cancer becomes a memory for the history books.
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