I spent the afternoon with three beautiful ladies who happen to have one important experience in common…each has been hit by breast cancer. There were four unique stages represented at the table. One has been cancer-free for more than five years, another has been cancer-free for 3 years, and the third is going through treatment at the moment. All three have experienced the painful moment of hearing from a doctor that their worst fear has materialized, along with a mastectomy of one or both breasts.
Each of them has had a different experience with regard to surgery, detection, recovery and reconstruction, but what I found most interesting was the different experiences they have each had with regard to their lives after diagnosis.
I was touched by how inspiring all three of them are. How each of them said in turn that they never felt as if they were going to die. (I thought that would be the first thought after hearing the diagnosis, but I was wrong.) Each of them felt that in some way they had been changed by the experience, but it was different for all.
I suspected that being around others who had been through the same thing would be something they aspired to do. On the contrary…getting back to the “real world” and resuming life was more on the agenda. Making plans for the future and eating what they want, etc. Those were the things that signaled that life was moving on in the right direction.
I felt honored and blessed to be surrounded by such amazing, powerful personalities who were willing to share their experiences as I listened. They discussed their surgeries, treatments and realizations about their lives. The one thing they all had in common, aside from the obvious, was their renewed positive outlook. None of them seemed bitter or angry, but instead they each said they try to live a more positive life. One dear friend said she never goes to bed angry at her husband because she realizes how short life can be (due not just to her cancer, but to other tragedies in her life.) It’s a lesson I should learn, for sure.
I listened, more importantly, as an outsider. I caught a glimpse into a club that I will, hopefully, never join. A club that binds its members together with an understanding that each has survived a tremendous experience and come out the other end. I felt touched that they shared so much as I listened and as I asked questions (hopefully not too ignorant). I have a habit of saying things bluntly, and hopefully this was not the case today.
Oh, I said four stages above didn’t I? Very observant of you…I am number four. I am the one untouched by cancer physically. I have had a biopsy for a suspicious area in my breast, but I was lucky that it was not a threat. I have only felt the fear, not the actual cancer. I hope I stay in this stage, but I am grateful for the glimpse I was given into a powerful, positive group of women who I am happy and blessed to call my friends.