A Story to Tell
June is a challenging month for me. It marks the occasion I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Each year that memory floods my conscious thought. I remember the gripping fear, the dimly lit room, the feel of the warm gel on my chest, the beeps and whirs from the machine, and the sound of the gun snap the moment the Radiologist withdrew a sample of my breast tissue. I remember the isolation, the needles, the unknowns. I remember the cold wash of fear rushing through my body, and the paralyzing thought that I would never see my child grow and he would never know his mommy. Every June I relive those moments.
This June was no exception. I had my annual mammogram on the 01st of the month, and left the hospital with the hope that all looked normal, and I would not be back for another year. I was recalled. There were questionable asymmetries noted. That gripping fear washed over me once again. For 28 days as I waited for my appointment, I clung to the hope that what they detected in the mammogram were the cluster cysts discovered 5 moths previously. I worked hard to remain rational, trusting my instinctual feelings, and drawing upon my coping strategies. Yet I found myself hugging my son tighter, holding him closer to me, and making him my focal point as a distraction from the gnawing anxiety I was feeling. It’s not fair to him. Not at all. But it’s often the messy truth of motherhood. Through your own fear, anxiety, stress, and hurt you paste a smile to your face and put all your energy into your child(ren) to compensate the brokenness you feel within yourself.
The day of my recall appointment arrived. I went alone. I lay in the dimly lit room, listening once again to the beeps and whirs of the machine, and feeling the warm gel on my chest. I sang a lullaby over and over in my head to keep calm, it was the lullaby I sang to my son when he was feeling sad or scared. I lay alone in the room as I waited for the results, pushing back tears of anxiety and fear. Confirmed – it was the cysts. The Radiologist diagnosed them as non-concerning with no further follow-up required. I left the hospital in a daze, processing the overwhelming emotions I was feeling. I got into my car, sat there [alone], and I cried. I cried for all those women who require further follow-up and have a difficult journey ahead of them; and I cried for myself, for the relief and gratitude I was overcome with. The journey may change as time marches onward, but the path is never easy to traverse. The fear never leaves your side. It shares your space, always.
The month has passed by, as has my cancerversary. I am ever so grateful to reach my 6 year cancerversary relatively unscathed. It will take a bit of time for the fear to subside once more, however allowing myself time is something I’ve grown accustomed too. I know that I am fortunate – some even say lucky – and I am very grateful to be alive. I have watched my child grow over these past 6 years, from toddler to pre-schooler to big boy. He is wondrous, fun, bright, creative, and cheeky. For this, I know I am lucky. I am humbled to have this blessing. I am humbled to have the chance to live my life.
June signifies not only my personal cancerversary but also National Cancer Survivors Day. A reminder to myself that many of us are in this together. We each have our own story to tell. Cancer impacts many – either directly or indirectly. It is frustrating and heartbreaking that in the 21st century we are still grappling with this disease and still struggling to find cures. Great advancements, research, and efforts have been made to finding cures and supporting those who are impacted from the disease. Some people help by donating to foundations, organizations, and hospitals, and some people help by sharing their personal journeys, raising awareness, and offering their support. Regardless of how it is given, there is always help and support to be had. We may often feel isolated and lonely but we are never truly alone.
I would not – could not – can not traverse my journey without the love, kindnesses, and support I and my family have received and continue to receive these past 6 years. It is the strength and love of others that fuels the strength I feel within.
A Story to Tell. Published by Crystal Joy Hall