When we rush to conclusions about someone else’s health based on how they act, we completely discount the importance of mental health, and that those struggles and demons are just as valid as illnesses. I can’t help but think about those we’ve lost to suicide: some who worked so hard to present as happy for everyone else, or to “fake it til they make it,” but who were fighting their own minds on a constant basis.
So, we did the damn thing. We did it. We kept life normal for our kids. Cancer was just a part of it all. It was just part of our parenting story. And honestly, I don’t think I’d change it. They know doctors are amazing human beings who love and take care of their mom and will do it for them if they need it. They know they have so many people who love them and are part of their team of helpers in this world. They know they can be strong if they need to be. They know that sometimes bad stuff happens. And mostly, they know they can handle life. No matter what it throws at them.
Between that day, and a full month of scans (CT, two MRIs, echo and full body bone), my diagnosis went from stage II Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (breast cancer), to stage III HER2+, to stage IV with mets to the liver. I also went from being told that I would need a lumpectomy and radiation, to a mastectomy with chemotherapy and radiation, to surgery coming right off the table and going straight into six months of chemo and hormone blockers - do not pass GO!
A few days ago I was scrolling through social media and I came across this quote: “You mastered survival mode, now it’s time to live.” and so I paused and read it again and again and then I asked myself, “What do I define as survival mode? Did I master survival mode or am I still surviving? Am I really living? Can you ever master survival mode?” So then I went on to think about everything that has been going on in my life so far, both past and present and realized that I find myself going back and forth into survival mode, maybe all of us do (at least for now).
When someone says, “tell me about yourself”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Do you identify most with your job? What about with your diagnosis? One of the biggest struggles I’ve had since finding out I had breast cancer was figuring out how I really see myself, and how I identify myself to others. When I’m too sick to work, am I still a physical therapist? Just a cancer patient? A survivor? Does it really matter? Who gets to decide these things?