Doris Cardwell received a life-changing diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer in 2007. While undergoing treatment, she co-founded a mentor program for the cancer center treating her. She also created community events to educate, encourage and empower people regarding cancer. Doris was the first Survivorship Community Outreach Liaison for her local cancer center. She is an advocate, educator and encourager on issues facing cancer survivors. Doris is a wife, mother, empty nester, survivor of life and lover of all things coffee. An avid speaker and blogger, she is available at www.justdoris.com.
While I am and will always be a survivor, there are times in life that it should, and will take a back seat.
This October was different for me. Usually I am vocal during breast cancer awareness month. I educate, I inform, I advocate. This year, I fell strangely silent. I felt glad when the month came to a close, relieved actually. It felt odd, bizarre even, to not be part of the "pink parade". For some reason, this October, I just didn't have it in me. I couldn't, I wouldn't, I didn't want to. No pinking of the hair, no t-shirts, no community events, nothing. It just wasn't there.
Where did it go? Have I lost something, did I change, does that mean I'm over it? Have I, like so many people think survivors should, "just moved on"?
To answer these questions I spent some time in reflection. I was reminded that this year brought many changes. I got a new job, our oldest daughter got married in September and my cancer checkup got moved to the end of October.
The wedding was beautiful, a celebration of love, life and friends. When I was diagnosed she was seventeen. I wondered then if I would ever see her or her younger sisters marry. If their father would walk them down the aisle without me there to witness it. To be there and be healthy was indeed a great gift.
My new job is great, busy and challenging. I work at a health food store. Just last week a woman was talking to me about pro-biotics when she suddenly told me she had breast issues. She didn't know I was a survivor of Inflammatory Breast Cancer. The aggressive disease to which she was describing all the symptoms. She had already looked online and knew she had the symptoms. While I reminded her it could be something else, I calmly but firmly urged her to go to a doctor right away. I felt sick to my stomach as I watched her walk away.
Check ups always weigh heavy on my mind. We have a long drive to see my oncologist. All the way there this time I fought thinking what if's. What if this is the time I get bad news. What if my life is about to take a drastic change, again. Those moments you choose to think the best, but the reality is once you have experienced the worst, you know it can happen. I was relieved when the check up went well, still No Evidence of Disease. Those are always good words to hear.
On the way home I was thinking about how no matter what else happens in my life, I will always be a cancer survivor. There will never be a time in my life that those words won't apply to me. I thought about how much pressure there is for survivors to do something. To always be positive, I mean after all.... you survived. You know the whole "when life gives you lemons you make lemonade" kind of thing. Yet our cancer experience is only a part of who we are, not the whole.
While I am and will always be a survivor, there are times in life that it should, and will take a back seat. So when I am asked what I did for breast cancer awareness month this year my answer is simple, LIFE. I lived my life for breast cancer awareness month. I lived the stress, the happiness, the hurt and the healing, I lived it all, every day. That for me this year, was more than enough. There is a time and a season for everything. If you find yourself silent in times when others expect you to be vocal, I hope you feel peace, love and happiness.