|My final day at the ranch, just before the early June snow began.|
Francine G. Photography, Breast Casting
Going into the Cowgirls vs. Cancer retreat I read this quote over and over and kept saying to myself “you’re a city girl, born and bred”….but deep down I knew I had it in me…I knew I had faced life head on and shown my own special brand of courage. For me, getting diagnosed with breast cancer and being told I had to have a double mastectomy was simply the final check on a list of very bad luck.
My first daughter was born blind, my second daughter was born asleep, we were blessed with another daughter on our third try, but our fourth daughter also died before being born. When I was pregnant with my last child I prayed each day for a living, breathing baby…I was heard, she was born perfect, healthy and beautiful. However, I immediately started to hemorrhage internally and it went undiagnosed until I had almost died, over 20 units of blood products were used to save my life, but it was too late to save my uterus. My baby went home two weeks before I did and even though there was pure joy in this perfect new life, there was also a lot of recovery, both physical and emotional.
Needless to say when I was diagnosed with cancer seven months later I was completely broadsided.
|My first day at the ranch, I felt like I belonged in the Athleta |
catalog, given my outfit and beautiful scenery.
One of the hardest things for me was that I lived far away from my close friends and family. We live in a small town and I had to travel 1 ½ hours each way for all of my treatment; I felt isolated and alone. There were no young breast cancer survivors near us and it was hard to be around women my age listening to them talk about their seemingly perfect lives. What could I add to the conversation? Nipple reconstruction options or perhaps the benefits of pr/er + cancer over the triple negative kind. I think they were more interested in paint colors than 50 hours of labor for a stillbirth and I completely understood, but it left me adrift.
As I healed I began to run, I started with slow short distances and morphed into a powerful distance runner, the problem was I was mimicking a horse, when presented with the flight or fight response I was fleeing, as fast as I could. Running was my escape from reality but when I would stop I was unable to deal with all of the horrible events up to and including my cancer. Eventually I learned to completely disassociate myself from all that had happened in an effort to simply survive each day and take care of my family. This put me distinctly into the category of “surviving” rather than “thriving”.
|The deer participated in our morning meditation.|
This was the first quiet and reflective time I had experienced since my diagnosis. It was amazing to be able to connect with women who had heard the same words I had, “you have breast cancer”.
|Janice, what can I say? She is perhaps|
one of the kindest people I will know.
|Ron IS the calm in the storm. Quietly hilarious and|
infinitely perceptive, my friend.
|Margaret Burns Vap, the beautiful face behind the concept.|
Horses, yoga, and breast cancer.
Now as I continue my journey I am not alone. I have women I know I can relate to, they share my struggles, we shared an amazing weekend and I will consider them friends for a lifetime.
|May these hands stay healthy, strong and happy.|
These could be the hands of anyone, but they are not. These strong hands belong to invincible women that are still impacting my life and lifting my spirit. These are the hands of women who continue to work, love, inspire and hope. They are hands that tremble with each follow up appointment and clap and hold tight to loved ones when the news is good. They are also the hands that hold tissues when the news is not as good. Either way, they are the hands of women I have come to love. Myself included.