Happy Friday to you all! How wonderful is it that summer is right around the corner? I know I’m ready. Hot flashes be damned!
Luckily, my time with Tamoxifen is coming to an end! This December, I will take what is hopefully my last dose. Hopefully, I say, because I’m now aware of the statistic that one out of three individuals with early stage breast cancer will receive another diagnosis at some point in the future. Am I scared? More days than others, yes. Has it made me question my entire existence? You betcha. But one of the biggest lessons learned is these irrational fears and worries can be shifted into taking action, making changes that bring the most peace when the day is over.
Certainly, I can split my life into two: Kelsey Before Cancer and Kelsey After Diagnosis. For nearly three years after diagnosis, I tried to be Kelsey Before Cancer. Never mind that I gutted and remodeled my entire chest, or that I endured 20 rounds of chemo in 16 visits. I stepped into a seemingly empty arena, then brought the party to spectate, judge, and comment. I mean, I am pretty good at the party part, so it’s understandable ;D
It’s truly something, seeing the spectators. Just like sports talk, the spectators are filled with opinions: How they would have handled my situation, how they would make the proverbial plays. After I was told by a spectator to speed up my grieving process, it felt like listening to Dennis Miller commentating for the NFL: Full of opinions and judgements, but no action or real-world experience whatsoever. Yet, my inner critic latched on tight, telling me this person was correct. I was a young survivor for fuck’s sake, so why was I feeling hopeless on the inside? After that encounter, I left the arena for a while because people meant more judgments, expectations, and disappointment. But why did it matter SO much?
Since I’m a glutton for punishment (or my life path is wild), I stepped in the arena yet again, this time in a new city, even though I wasn’t mentally prepared. But instead of trying to figure out this new mess, I kept grasping at BC Kels, seeing shards of my past I could never quite catch. On July 3rd, 2018, the Universe said, “ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT!” And just like that, my corporate career was ovah.
Again, I had to re-evaluate. I had to get quiet. Disappointing others kind of turned into a sport, because as I answered less to them, I said “yes” to me. And the more I gave myself permission to march to the beat of my own drum, the less I could relate to folks who reminded me of my worst qualities. They say you are the combination of the top five people you hang out with, and I certainly believe it. How did I end up a Regina George? Inner focus brought visions: Being a champion to those who feel but can’t speak, putting words to these emotions, talking to sources directly. BEING THE SOURCE. At the very base level, I am a writer.
I. AM. A. WRITER!!!!!
There are a few things getting breast cancer that aren’t spoken on. But I’m here to tell you one of them: The moment you hear those three fucking words, YOU’RE DEAD. It is a death of dreams, hopes, and expectations. It is a death of what you thought you knew. It’s the death of the ego because you quickly realize how much you DO NOT KNOW. Uncertainty is now a mainstay that will never go away.
Fast-forwarding to nearly five years after that phone call, you can now find me giving a much-needed hug a newly diagnosed patient, telling her the feelings are valid, understandable, and that she has every right to be terrified, angry, and happy all in the same day. I’m learning about new testing every day, disseminating information to listeners. When I’m not working, I try to get to the beach as much as possible. Ultimately, my growth happened when I started guiding others through it because there’s not a day that goes by in any patient’s head without thinking about the big C.
Seeing the gifts in something as horrendous as sacrificing body parts is where the silver linings are. While I hate the term, “at least,” at least I have my life. Not everyone is afforded that privilege.
Until that changes and a cure is found, my purpose in life lies in helping others manage. These are the thoughts that fill my head these days instead of worrying about what or who I can’t control. Spectators no longer matter in how I run things. After enduring chronic physical, mental, and emotional pain, I realized opinions are just that: Opinions! They are not a contract to commit to, nor should they precede my own intuition.
Breast cancer has ultimately led me towards the life I didn’t know I desperately needed. I finally feel like I’ve been given a chance to support others in their journey in a unique way. This is why I love the podcast, I love attending groups, I love collaborating with Universities, and why I’m relentless in this pursuit. It’s why I didn’t give up.
The truth is, if I hadn’t walked through the Victory Center’s doors in December 2016, I truly don’t know where I’d be. Meeting other women who felt the pain of collateral damage unlocked a new world. They listened, they understood, and they supported me during my darkest hours. Melissa recommended that I attend the Young Survival Coalition, and the rest was history!
I HAVE to pay it forward. It’s just who I am. Knock me down nine times, I get up Eleven. It feels amazing to be free from writer’s block, and I can’t wait to continue on this path.
Around my birthday this year, I interviewed young Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor and US Navy Officer Chris Thompson on the power of support. What many people don’t know is that we have spent many late nights talking over how infallible we were before diagnosis, how to manage life as it looks now, and simply bonding over our similar yet different fates. During his treatment, he never gave up the ship, and he never backed down.
To celebrate his next chapter, he requested bracelets to support The CanSurvivor Network with his hashtag of choice: #KelseyStrongWontBackDown. Coincidentally enough, happens to be the name of Melissa’s blog on triple negative breast cancer. What better way to support these rockstars! Being a mentor in this arena has completely reignited my passion and I can’t wait to continuously expand The CanSurvivor Network.
If you would like to support our mission to provide emotional and financial support for men and women impacted by cancer through advocacy, education, and grants, please consider purchasing a bracelet below. If you don’t have Cash App, you can sign up using this link and receive $5. Win-win! Otherwise, clicking the image will take you directly to the Venmo page. I will be accepting payment through Facebook messenger and PayPal. Don’t forget to provide your address upon ordering! If a bracelet doesn’t sound good to you, a store will be opening soon with a few items to purchase. We also won’t turn down a cash donation!
For everyone who has made it this far, thank you, and I appreciate your support. A newsletter will be released soon, so please don’t forget to sign up!