A new companion

A couple weeks ago, I found myself at a burger joint in Miami, drawing pictures on a paper place mat of what my boobs look like ten days post 5th surgery. I am not a good drawer but I look at them everyday and can recall the scar design and the anatomical details of my almost re-done chest pretty well. I was with some of my co-workers, we were having a few beers after a long day and we are a pretty tight group so when one jokingly asked for a peep show (don’t freak HR), I agreed to a sketch instead. Like a lot of people, they have been on this trail with me for several months and by now they know that I will talk, if asked, pretty freely about this cancer thing so this wasn’t that odd of an experience. And hours later, three, all men, all joking aside, came up to me and thanked me for sharing.

In the beginning talking about BC was a way to control just one thing in an uncontrollable situation. And the thing that needed the most control was the hysteria and doom and gloom that I had started to hear in people’s voices almost immediately. And hysteria for good reason. We tend to hear most about the really bad BC stories and no one wants to think of someone they know going through that. But as EO’s BC Team planned and as I learned about my cells and as I got more control, and knew that my cancer story was not going to be one of the really bad ones, sharing became a way to calm everyone, myself included.

Now sharing has become something different. For me it has become a way to de-mystify cancer, to embrace it and to keep it top of mind and to force me to take time to think about myself, my head and my body. Talking about it reminds me to be diligent about doctors and dentists and habits that keep you healthy and it reminds me to teach my kids about that too. Answering questions about mammograms, scars and drugs, multiple surgeries and pathology reports shows that this BC thing can be survivable and not always impossible.  And once you hear about implants, milk ducts and nipple replacements from someone you know they don’t seem that weird or that terrible. Seeing me alive, telling my story shows that BC not my arch enemy.  It is more like my companion now, my companion that is a daily reminder of how I want to live.  And maybe that companionship is important for all of us to have, especially because many of us will be touched by this BC thing, sometime. The stats say so.

Stats from American Cancer Society, Cancer.org, CDC
Stats from American Cancer Society, Cancer.org, CDC

Author: Eileen O'Toole

A quick service restaurant vet who loves food, teaching, learning and being a single Mom. Believes that waking up each day with a positive attitude and a smile on your face can change the world.

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