Originally, I planned to spend this weekend at a conference called Living Beyond Breast Cancer. The conference was packed full of sessions about facing your fears of recurrence, enlisting complementary therapies while on chemo or recovering from its aftereffects, and the latest treatment options, with plenty of time to network and meet other cancer survivors between sessions. The conference was to help us literally learn to live beyond breast cancer, by facing it, talking about it, finding tools, and moving on.
Moving on is hard to do. As I’ve said many times in this space, life is fundamentally changed after a breast cancer diagnosis. The hugs are sweeter, but the worries are more intense, and, often, we feel that every single day is so precious that not a moment must be wasted.
That’s a lot to carry around.
In addition, you guys may know that I’ve had quite a week since my bad ER trip, including a close friend’s cancer scare that landed me right back in the exam room where I was first told “You have cancer.” I’ve also been struggling with a very difficult situation with another cancer awareness group that I work with, and getting over my disappointment at not being able to travel to Atlanta to film a video that the American Cancer Society requested for their annual meeting (lymphedema strikes again!). So, not so much a good week in the Living Beyond department over here at WhyMommy’s.
But then, I got the news. Stella posted an incredible post on Friday about the new statistics for women with inflammatory breast cancer. Go on, read the link. It’s awesome, and inspiring, and HAPPY! After I got the news, I felt lighter. Literally, lighter. And hopeful. Hopeful that my fate is NOT that which I first was presented with, only a 40% chance of living 5 years, and no data beyond that. Because, as it turns out, over 50% of those diagnosed 5 years ago are still alive. Better yet, 1/3 of the people that were diagnosed 20 years ago are still alive. This is an INCREDIBLE improvement, as over on the IBC email list in 2007, we were hard-pressed to find ANYONE who had made it to 20 years.
And, although I rarely admitted it, I had internalized that. I had accepted that I wouldn’t be here for long, and made decisions accordingly. I had Made. The. Most. of every day, squeezing extra hugs, extra kindness, an extra step into each day, because I knew that I only got one chance.
But now, it looks like I might just get more than one chance. I might get the chance to see my boys grow All. The. Way. Up. I might get to finish my book, to write another one, to build my business, to move beyond the current issues that I’m working on … and to move Beyond Breast Cancer.
Buoyed by this realization, I chucked the conference and decided to simply follow my heart yesterday. I made breakfast for the kids, worked for a couple of hours, picked up baskets at Ikea, went to a beagle rescue event and talked with them about becoming a beagle foster mom again, and spent a good part of the morning doing nothing but relaxing with friends. We had such a good morning. Imagine, a roomful of (free) e.l.f. makeup and goodies from Giant, with the company of the perfect hostess TechSavvyMama, the bubbly TeachMama, warm SmilingMama (yes, we’re all Mamas … how could you tell?), always-classy PunditMom, incredible Stimey, passionate ParentopiaDevra, gorgeous BabyBuncher, stunning JusticeFergie (seriously, who looks this good without makeup?), and a very-pregnant ThienKim, who managed to NOT go into labor despite the odds.
For a few hours, there and with the beagles, I was just me. Susan. Mom. Person. Not cancer survivor or anything else. And it was pretty awesome.
This week, I pledge to continue Living Beyond. I may even waste some time here and there. Because after all, I have a lot more of it left than I thought.
WhyMommy and TeachMama, in a rare moment of girlish glee at a party hosted by the incredible TechSavvyMama.