Welcome to my inaugural article for Susan G. Komen. I am delighted to share with you my journey with breast cancer, as well as practical advice to help you cope and heal throughout your own journey with the disease.
I was diagnosed with stage IIB breast cancer in November 2012. I underwent dose dense chemotherapy for three months, a double mastectomy, lymph node removal on my left side and five weeks of radiation. Then in May 2018, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer to my spine and pelvic bones – stage IV disease.
When I was initially diagnosed on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, Presidential Election Day, my daughter’s third birthday, my world was rocked. And in the days that passed people rallied in my corner. Cards poured into my mailbox, I received phone calls from friends, Facebook messages and texts from near and far. All of those words of encouragement fueled my battle.
And then…there were the people who disappeared. They were close friends. They were family. They were the people who I envisioned would step up to the plate. They were the ones who I knew would prepare meals, baby-sit the kids so I could Christmas shop, offer to run errands for me. I was wrong. As I entered a new reality, they fled out my backdoor.
Let me tell you about those people.
As much as you think your diagnosis is yours, it’s not. Your mortality haunts more than just you. Haven’t you ever been grateful that your diagnosis is yours and not your partner’s, your child’s, your parent’s? It’s easier to be the one facing death than watching a loved one suffer that fate. Some people in your life can’t handle watching you battle, struggle, change. They have to walk away.
So, forgive them. They may come back as you heal. They may never return. My biggest advice to you is to recognize that their leaving and returning, or their leaving and never returning is about them, not you. It’s a “them issue,” not a “you issue.”
Cancer is a curse and a hidden blessing. You learn your strength. You gain perspective. You finally let things go. As my grandmother always said, “When God closes a door s/he opens a window.” These family and friends fled out the backdoor, but trust me, something amazing is gonna fly in your window. And just in case, keep the door unlocked.