It was a cold, rainy Sunday morning in February. February 22nd, 2015 to be exact.
I stood in front of my kitchen sink feeling the weight of the Sunday blues and the sorrow of the dark sky in my heart. My mind flashed back to a sunny day that past June when I was lunching under the blue sky with my fellow yoga teacher training sistas. Somehow as we consumed our tacos, we had gotten on the subject of self breast checks.
“Ew!” I said. “I hate them. Of course, everyone has some lumps/bumps. I would rather not freak out about what is probably nothing. So, I just don’t do them. ”
“Emily!” exclaimed my friend, Erica, “You know your body best.” I ignored her...or at least I thought I had.
On Sunday, February 22nd, 2015, I listened. Right there in the kitchen, I threw my left arm up and did my first self breast check. I found a lump. 31 days, an ultrasound, a mammogram, and a biopsy later, driving home from work, I pulled over to answer a call from a breast surgeon. As she delivered the results from the biopsy, she used the “c” word. The surgeon said her nurse would be calling me to set up an appointment for next week. (A week!) We hung up the phone. I called my mom. She picked up after one ring. In between sobs, I blubbered out, “Mom, I have cancer.”
The next seven days were the most surreal days of my life. My thoughts were consumed with cancer and what the f I was going to do. When I woke up in the morning, when I went to bed at night, driving to work, driving home from work, sitting in meetings, spending time with family and friends, spending time alone, in yoga, in meditation. All. The. Time. Was it just in my boob? Was it everywhere? Am I going to die? Will I need chemo? Will I be bald? Am I willing to go through chemo? What the f am I going to do? What the f am I going to do? What the f am I going to do?
Seven days later, my loved ones and I spent six hours with a team of doctors. The biopsy indicated the cells were triple negative, which (apparently) is the hardest type of cancer to treat. They recommended surgery, chemo, radiation, and endocrine therapy. Basically, blast my body with anything and everything. (Chemo seemed scary but radiation frightened me.) I was so conflicted. How could I accept practices that blew my immune system when I needed it the most? How could I accept practices that added toxicity to my body when I needed to rid toxic substances? But then...how could I not?
Then during one of my sessions with my beloved counselor, she handed me a book. “Em, I want you to read this.” I looked down at the cover. Insert judgemental mind - this book looks like it was from 1970. I mean look at that cover! I gave it a shot anyway.
“Peace, Love, and Healing,” by Dr. Bernie Siegel ended up being monumental in my healing journey. Bernie asks his patients, “Why do you need this disease?” And so I soul searched...
I have lived a lot of my life/put so much energy into - trying to be - maybe even striving to be - who I thought I SHOULD be. As a woman, as a sister, as a daughter, as a cousin, as a lover, as a friend, as a professional. I read self improvement books like mad; I was consumed with self growth - how to be that “right” person.
Who was I on 2/22/15? Even with all that “work,” I was a dim version of Em. Over time, I had given away my power. I gave it to my partner; I gave it to my job; I gave it to the idea of where I thought I should be (where I definitely wasn't); I gave it to others ideas of who I should be; I gave it to my inner critic; I gave it to...and the list goes on (and on and on). Then, boob cancer gave me a swift kick in the a. It said to me - EM - look at your life - and take your f-ing power back. And I did...slowly. I chose to keep the people in my life who were strong enough to be with me, who didn't hide, who didn't avoid, who didn't make my situation about them.
I chose to start researching all sorts of treatment options. I chose to rock the baldie. I accepted chemo and then I chose to stop chemo. I chose to opt out of radiation. I chose to break up with my oncologist (who told me God called her to do this work...what does God have to do with it? This is about MY life, MY body and MY choices, not about YOUR God). I chose to not participate in endocrine therapy. I chose to leave my job. I chose to do yoga. I chose to meditate. I chose to put drops of frankincense under my tongue. I chose to drink bone broth every day. I chose to swim. I chose to color. I chose to read. I chose to journal. I chose to write thank you notes stuffed with You are Beautiful stickers. (Want one? I would love to send you one!)
I chose, I chose, I chose.
I truly believe that how women choose to heal - what methods and who they choose to work with (or not) is an individual choice. SHE is the only one who knows what is right for her! (Scary as s. Empowering as s).
Thanks for reading.
PS. You are beautiful!