November 2, 2018
After days in the hospital recovering, we went home. Night after night the pain was terrible and even breathing hurt. We returned to the hospital in search of answers. After many tests and fear of infection, the surgeon removed my dressings. I was not prepared to see myself.
The bandages were small so I felt like I had an idea of what I was going to see. Before the doctor removed them, I felt strong and ready to face the world. But it is amazing how a thin piece of gauze and tape can hold your emotional state together. The surgeon, two nurses, and my husband stood in front of me. I sat, sobbing. I had no idea this would be my reaction. I felt cowardly because I couldn’t even look down at myself. I felt ugly. Manly. Afraid I made the wrong choice. Everyone left the room except for my husband. I was fully exposed but couldn’t make myself look down. The fear of the unknown was paralyzing. With my husband holding my hand I finally looked. Black, blue, green bruising, sharpie marks, and a thin line of stitching about 7 inches on each side lined my chest. It wasn’t pretty but it was what I looked like now.
This was after my stage 2 diagnosis and a week after my bilateral mastectomy. So much has happened since that day but I still remember that moment vividly. All of us will encounter fear in our lives. What defines us is how we respond after we are afraid, not the fear itself. Fear is a natural response. But rather, what do we choose to do with that fear? Do we let it control us? Do we let it shape how we move forward? Does the fear you felt leave you unconfident or even feeling unloved?
I have felt uncontrollable, bone shaking fear many times in my life. I have also felt pure joy and unconditional love. If I hadn’t felt the fear would my mind have the knowledge to understand the beauty of 100 percent peace? Am I willing to release the past and the fear in order to reach that peace? This understanding won’t happen overnight and something I still struggle with daily. Leaving the hospital, I didn’t feel in control or at peace. Giving ourselves time to heal, asking for help, and having the transformational experience of understanding “you cannot control everything” is crucial in overcoming fear and finding your peace.
This past week my daughter and I went to Disney World. Just me and her enjoying each other and living life to the fullest. The Magic Kingdom was incredible. Cast members made sure everyone was always wearing a mask correctly, everyone was spaced out and everything was clean. We rode 11 rides before 11 o’clock. If you ever wanted to go to Disney World now is the time. I will remember that day forever. Overcoming the fear of getting sick and just enjoying time with my daughter was 100 percent worth the risk for me. These memories are what life is about.
Life is hard and scary but life is also wonderful. Each day brings new opportunities to grow, choose happiness, and to feel love. The sooner we can take a step back from our fear and see the joys life presents, the sooner we will find peace. One foot in front of the other. One step at a time. Just breathe and enjoy the memories.
Today I will focus on becoming a better self. I will take time to be afraid but not let that fear control how I live my life. Today I will just enjoy making memories.