October fades into November…..the orange and black (and candy) of Halloween are gone….. We turn back the clocks, and the days fade into night. Fall foliage fades into winter…. and pink fades too—from all the consumer products and from the consciousness of most people.
But nothing fades in November for the faces behind the ribbons—the women still contending with the fight—and the fears.
Oya Salon in Monterey sponsors an annual event to help local breast cancer patients (last year it’s where I donated my hair). Each year, survivors are runway models for the night, as they are at events held all over the country.
Though I didn’t know any of the models personally, they represent a tragic trend I’m seeing so often lately, women diagnosed at much younger ages—a constant reminder that cancer is a long way from fading out.
Part of the fashion show included a narrative taken from the models’ answers to questionnaires about their experiences. Their thoughts struck home for me; so I asked permission to share some of them.
Whether or not your own life has been touched by cancer—I think their words are valuable for everyone.
Has your perspective on life changed since your diagnosis?
Nothing is the same since my diagnosis. So I try to accept the new normal and focus on the future. And ask for help… it’s still not easy, but it’s a good lesson to learn for someone that’s been independent and a single mom for many years. I learned the day after diagnosis that people want to help, in any way they can… I’ve been lucky to experience that lesson….
I used to be so hard on my body. I wanted it to be beautiful, work countless hours, need little food, rest, or care. Wow….I feel 100% different now.
Little things don’t bother me anymore like they used to. I realize I don’t need that much to be happy. Health and family and friends are the most important things in life.
Did you have any positive experiences from your breast cancer experience that you would like to share?
Going through this cancer journey has really opened my eyes to what’s really important. I thought I knew that, but now I really know it. I have become a much stronger person. I’m more forgiving, and more tolerant. So when you see someone taking too long in the shopping line or driving too slow on the freeway, just remember, that person may have just heard those dreaded words, “I’m sorry, you have cancer.” Everybody is dealing with something whether we choose to see it or not.
Many new friendships, life lessons, chances to laugh at life, took time to appreciate life. It’s a never ending lesson of being grateful for the little things in life and even being thankful that life’s little problems now take precedence as life moves on after cancer. That fear of recurrence never goes completely away, but when your biggest problem of the week is your 6th grader’s math homework, that’s a good thing.
Cancer is a bitch. Of course every difficult time in our lives gives us an opportunity to grow. Tribulation and chaos can be great teachers so in that sense, yes, I found something positive out of the experience. I am a more compassionate person, I have been reminded that life is very precious, so yeah, there are positive experiences from cancer. But bottom line, cancer is a horrible disease. I hope we start paying more attention to this nasty epidemic that we have created and clean up our environment so people can find better ways to have “positive” experiences!
What advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed with breast cancer?
It’s just plain hard. Hard to sleep, hard to think clearly, hard to talk to people, hard to be alone. My one suggestion to people is to not think too far in the future to the “what ifs”… instead think about “What’s next?” By breaking it into chunks, like the next appointment, surgery, etc. you can have little successes along the way. This helps build confidence. We need to have confidence in our bodies again, because it is easy to feel betrayed when you find out that your body has made a cancer. So every positive milestone our bodies provide helps build our confidence and hope for our future.
The advice from 100-year old Drusilla: KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR !