I proceeded to outline my hand, on the top I drew this perfectly manicured hand, smooth skin, beautifully painted nails, my sparkling wedding ring. Then on the bottom I drew this very weathered, cracked, bruised and callused hand. This represented how I felt on the inside; guilt, shame, anger and resentment. You know all the things that are there, but you just push them down. That was a very powerful realization for me. On the outside you look like you have it all together, but on the inside… wow, you’re a hot mess girl!
By the time I was 20 years old I had suffered abuse, neglect, abandonment, foster care and group homes and poverty. I dropped out of school, got a divorce, and became a single Mom and a stripper to support me and my baby girl. Needless to say, I felt like damaged goods.
The next 20 years I spent trying to recover, doing everything I could to make it right. I married a wonderful man, went back to school, worked full time, and raised our children the way I wish I had been raised. I helped my Dad, Mom and brother. Literally, I woke up every day juggling all day long just to get it all done. I made a good life for myself, but inside I was not happy and I was wore out!
Fast forward to May 17, 2016. I got off work early and was running from one thing to the next as usual, I had to take my Dad to a Doctors apt and then go to one of my own. My father had been ill, and his apt went longer than expected. As we were speeding across town, I remember thinking; here I go again, always taking care of everyone else, and not myself.
The apt I was running late for was for a routine mammogram. I pulled into the parking lot 15 minutes late and ran in to the apt. I just knew they were going to tell me they couldn’t see me. If so, it would probably be months before I made the time to reschedule. I was already a year overdue for that apt! Thankfully they let me in.
A few days later I got the news… I had breast cancer. I was 42 years old, successful in my career, married to an amazing man and had 3 beautiful children. I was in complete shock and disbelief. How could I have cancer? I was healthy and fit, and doing everything the way I was supposed to! I drank protein shakes and did CrossFit 5-6 days a week for God’s sake!
Immediately after I shared my diagnosis, I began receiving words of encouragement and messages like; you’ve got this, Kick Cancers Ass, Fight like a girl, Fuck Cancer! I felt supported, but inside I was tired, I had been struggling and fighting my whole life! I just didn’t want to fight any more. I was ready to heal.
Though my cancer journey hasn’t been easy, it has never been about battling for me. Cancer gave me permission to focus on myself. It was a wakeup call to really look at the way I was living and make changes that helped me to learn to love myself and take care of myself , but most of all how to be true to myself. I started making time for meditation, cooking, massages and doing the things that made me happy, like reading. I had stopped reading for so long. I now have a pile of books next to my bed!
I wouldn’t wish a cancer diagnosis on anyone, but for me, this journey has been life changing. It has been difficult to say the least, but it has also been a journey of self-discovery and healing not only from cancer, but also my past wounds. I no longer feel weathered, cracked, bruised and callused. Through loving myself, I can heal!