As I approach my 2yr Cancerversary I realize that I’ve been taking baby steps the entire way. A bit too frightened to move forward, yet determined to make that step; a bit too hesitant to claim victory, yet resolved to triumph. I have an array of emotions, thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations whirling around in my head and in my heart that it’s been very difficult to hone them into words. It’s been difficult throughout.
Breast Cancer changes you. It alters every aspect of your being and your body. It’s a struggle to feel normal and a challenge to feel at peace with your mind and with your body. Your mind takes you to incredibly dark corners you do not wish to go, and you have a lack of trust in your body because it failed you. Your cells failed you. The essence of your physical self failed you. It’s hard to move forward from these realizations and from this bleak perception. It’s hard to trust. It’s hard to let go. But you know that you must. And so you stand up, and so you reach out, and so you take your first step – your baby step.
The baby steps I took within my first 6 months post-surgery were imperative. Nine weeks after my mastectomy I purchased my first set of surgical bras and my breast prosthesis. It was an immensely emotional experience, but thankfully I had my mom with me for support and encouragement. That was baby step #1: gaining a small piece of my “socially imposed” femininity back. Eleven weeks after my mastectomy I reached out to the Psychosocial Oncology Clinic at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (formerly Princess Margaret Hospital) and asked for help. I was drowning in my dark thoughts, my worst fears, and the “what the f#*k just happened to me” post traumatic stress. I took control of my state of being and I sought help. That was baby step #2: learning to live with the fear (which is, incidentally, an on-going lesson). Eighteen weeks after my mastectomy, under the encouragement of my Social Worker, I returned to work on a very part-time basis. It was still too early-on in my recovery process, but I needed to make that leap. I needed to reclaim my sense of self and part of my life back. That was baby step #3: taking back some sense of normalcy.
These 3 baby steps were imperative in my emotional recovery. And, of course, there have been several more steps that I have taken; creating new memories around difficult dates; joining an online social network support group; assisting with a fundraising campaign for Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, specifically Magic Castle Daycare; and blogging about my life after cancer. All of these therapies have helped me along on this journey, but it is my blog that resonates with me the most. Sharing my experiences and my journey makes me feel less alone and less vulnerable, and hopefully, my stories reach out to others so that they too can feel less alone in their own personal strifes. Blogging allows me to talk to whomever wants to listen, and through it I am creating a sense of community via the world wide web. I am so grateful for this medium.
However, as my 2yr Cancerversary fast approaches, I am all too aware that I still have so much healing to do. I still have more baby steps to take. I need to forgive myself for all of the self-blame I have imposed upon myself. It is not my fault I developed breast cancer. I did not will this disease upon myself. It just happened. I just happened to be that 1 in 9. It is life. It is the precarious manner of life. So self forgiveness is something I am slowly working toward. I am trying to be kinder to myself and I am trying to be more patient with the limitations I now have; and it is very difficult for me, as I have always been an active person and a go-getter and a “I can do it myself” kinda gal … but I cannot be her. Not all the time. Not anymore. So patience with myself, and kindness to myself, is necessary. And lastly, I need to nurture myself, which I have slowly begun to do. It is difficult, as I tend to neglect my inner needs, but I know that if I allow myself to breathe, to soften, to feel good overall and do what I can to be healthy, fit, and active, then I can overcome most hurdles, especially the ones I impose upon myself. I can generate lightness, positivity, strength, and beauty. It’s what I strive to do. I endeavour to rid myself of the burdens of stress and pessimism because those vibes are counterproductive to feeling good. And after all that I have gone through, I desperately want to feel good. Don’t we all?
And so here I am. Taking my baby steps. Making changes gradually come to fruition. Slowly, methodically, and steadily. Baby steps. We all have to start somewhere when learning to live our lives once the direction has been altered for us. We all have to take those baby steps, because if we do not then we will never move forward from the strife.
Baby Steps. Published by: Crystal Joy Hall