Courage: Middle English corage; from the Latin cor, meaning heart. Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.
One of the most difficult things I do is write this blog. Not because I lack courage. I started this blog because I wanted to tell my story. Some pieces are easy to write. Others are painful. But it is also too painful to keep it inside, so I write. Many posts take days, even weeks to write. Several of them were written a few years ago and it is only now that I can dust them off, polish them up, and share them with the world. Or at least my readers.
I am told that I am an inspiration. I did not plan to be an inspiration. Sometimes just doing; just being who I am touches a life in a way that I could not even imagine. When I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer I had about six weeks left of law school. It did not occur to me that this would be the time to quit. It was only six weeks; I needed to finish. So I put my head down and plowed ahead. I finished the paper I was writing for my elective. I did all of the assignments required for my Capstone class. What I did not realize was that I had become quiet in class and in the on-line Yahoo Groups. (The days before Facebook). When I finally disclosed my diagnosis to my classmates I had several say, “We were worried about you. We wondered why you had become so quiet.”
After completing my law school studies, I studied for the bar exam.* I went to graduation. At the time, it did not feel like I was courageous. It felt like I was stubborn. I wasn’t going to let cancer defeat me. I wasn’t going to let chemotherapy and a bald head keep me from fulfilling my dream of graduating from law school. And I certainly wasn’t going to let this thing, this disease, keep me from graduating with my class. Over the years I have heard from classmates and others at our graduation just what my attendance meant to them. It brings tears to my eyes when my friends share their version, their perspective of our graduation ceremony. I had no idea what a powerful statement I made by showing up.
It has been a slow process coming to terms with my diagnosis and what it means. I began researching breast cancer about six months after my diagnosis. It was then that I learned of the different types, as well as the fact that there are different identifications within the types. First there is staging. Then there are tests for hormone receptor involvement. And a test for the Her2 protein. Surgery involves finding out if lymph nodes are involved. Beyond that, the doctors will determine the grade of the tumor, which gives an additional level of information on just how aggressive the cancer is. There is a lot that goes into a final diagnosis and ultimate treatment plan.
Knowledge is both powerful and frightening. It is scary because it told me exactly what had gone wrong within my body. It is chilling to learn that my tumor is rare and aggressive. It is encouraging that it was Stage I (no lymph node involvement), but alarming to know that it was Grade 3. But knowing these things is powerful. I have the knowledge of my diagnosis, and there is nothing to change what happened. However, with this knowledge I can take control of my life by living a healthier lifestyle and being aware of changes in my body. I am fortunate because triple negative breast cancer has a high rate of recurrence in the 36-48 months after diagnosis and I made it past the four year mark.
Also, I am able to share my knowledge with others. My friends have connected me with their friends and family members who are facing the unknown that is breast cancer. I share my story to encourage others. While I know that my story brings hope to those who are struggling I am also aware of this truth: cancer kills. Breast cancer comes back, even with an early stage diagnosis. Mine is a story of healing and hope, and I want to bring that hope to others. But I am also here to share knowledge, provide support, and give my love to those who are facing the very scary, very real unknown. So I will continue to tell the story of who I am with my whole heart.
|March 1, 2008|
*I did not pass the February exam, but I passed when I took it again in July.