Today is an extra-thankful Thursday; I survived another surgery. I managed a shower with minimal discomfort. I feel so much better than I did after my last surgery. I have an awesome husband who has, once again, stepped up to the plate and is encouraging me to rest. I have a friend who is bringing me a latte from my favorite local coffee shop. Best of all, I have piece of mind that I will have a future filled with moments like this:
Modern medicine is an amazing thing. I’m thankful for a future that is so bright!
I know that recovery is hard. Only in the past three weeks have I really began to feel like myself again. I talked to my wonderful aunt today and she was singing praises for my bravery. With the holidays approaching, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on how far I’ve come. I’m so, so grateful for the chance to be here and be healthy. Not everyone is so lucky.
The last time I saw my mom alive was when I came home from college for Christmas break. By that point in her life she had stopped chemo treatment and was simply waiting for the end. She was on a lot of pain meds and wasn’t cognizant of her surroundings. She had brief lucid moments, but not many. I remember that she “woke up” for Christmas. It was hard on all of us but a blessing to spend those hours with her. She passed away not long after I returned to school to resume classes in January.
I’ve seen what cancer can do to the individual suffering and the family. I may have the cancer gene, but I get a gift my mother never had—I took steps to prevent cancer before it could start. Cancer is something that people don’t talk about and that needs to change. No one should feel ashamed or self-conscious about taking steps to treat or prevent this awful disease. Many people marvel at what I’ve done and how open I am at discussing my health. I don’t see it as a choice. I am open because I can make a difference. If I can help one person stay healthy by raising awareness of prophylactic surgery or letting her know she is not alone in this process, I will be elated.
In the meantime, I’m doing my best to stay healthy and enjoy this life I’ve been given. I may not be as fit as I was last year, but I will be again. This Christmas, I have been given the gift of health, and it’s not one I will ever take for grated.
I’ve had a lot of time on my hands lately during my forced idleness, so I’ve been reading more than usual. Per the suggestion of a friend, I just finished reading Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, which was not a book I would typically read (in spite of it being an Oprah’s Book Club pick and the fact that Melton is author of a well-known blog called “Momastery”). Number one, it’s a memoir. Number two, the storyteller, Ms. Melton, is not the type of person with whom I identify. I finished this book because my friend gave it to me, pure and simple, and while it left a bitter taste in my mouth, it did spur some reflection.
Love Warrior is a story about Melton’s problematic journey towards self love. Her story begins in adolescence. Melton writes that she grew up sending her “representative” out into the world to portray herself as she believed others wished her to be.¹ In truth, she lived with bulimia, struggled with substance addiction, and fell prey to constant self-abuse.
Motherhood helped Melton get sober, but adulthood did little to change her self-loathing. Only after therapy and yoga does Melton claim her attitude shifts. She describes this shift when she writes of “unbecoming” and “a peeling away of costume after costume” (p. 223), through which she claims to find herself.
What in the world does this have to do with me?
Going through the process of finding out I was BRCA2+ and upending the normalcy of my life could have broken me. I could portray myself as having my shit together but be crumbling inside. But, unlike Melton, I don’t feel the need to hide behind a costume and, frankly, you shouldn’t either. My life is messy and I’m damn proud of it; there is no pretending here.
I choose to see life as a process of “becoming,” and I recommend you do the same. We are who we are because of our life’s experiences, messiness and all. If you don’t put on a costume, you don’t have to deal with taking it off later. Own your crazy from the beginning.
surrender? Ain’t no body got time for that
I can’t shake the feeling that Melton sees life as something that happens to her rather than seeing herself as an active participant. Even after a series of epiphanies, she defines her growth in a language of “surrendering” (p. 206). Surrender, by nature, implies submission. Submission implies a lack of control over your response to life’s challenges. There is no room for the language of surrender in my life. I refuse to submit.
Speak with courage
Self-love means taking control of our problems and using them to grow, and we need not bottom out melodramatically in the process. Skip the language of surrender altogether and reframe your life in a language of courage right from the beginning.
I am a previvor.
I am proactive.
I am a warrior.
I refuse to surrender.
This is who I am. Who are you?
¹Melton, Glennon Doyle. (2016). Love Warrior. New York: Flat Iron Books.