Op/Ed

Community forum: Gifts can come unexpectedly

On July 22, 2020, I entered Porter Hospital for a mammogram that was three years overdue. The possibility of cancer didn’t occur to me. I’d never had a “bad” mammogram. How could I be so sanguine? The scan revealed abnormalities. Surely, breast density was the culprit.

A second scan, several biopsies, and an MRI confirmed multiple malignancies. Though found relatively “early,” the cancer was grade 4 of 5. It could spread swiftly. Removal of both breasts in their entirety was medically necessary.

Upon hearing the news, the man I thought loved me said all the right things. He loved me for who I am, not my body. He’d be with me throughout and wanted me to be cancer free. On the eve before losing my breasts, he dumped me, and exited stage left.

There were complications during surgery.

Recovery was arduous. I chose no reconstruction. At 62 years young, I didn’t want my life to revolve around surgeries. Outside my door, the pandemic raged.

Inside the safety of my home, my body and heart began to heal. Historically, I’d judged myself harshly. Not good enough, smart enough, fit enough, pretty enough, accomplished enough, and on the list went. In solitude, I found acceptance of my body and its battle scars, and appreciation for the strength and resilience I believed I had, and now know I truly possess. I’ve become my own best advocate. I found for myself the compassion and love I give freely to others. Today, I am enough.

Breast cancer wasn’t the worst thing to happen to me. I thought it would be. Mastectomy freed me from future worry. The journey revealed the vagaries of love, and rid me of crippling, self-limiting beliefs. Just as I never thought of cancer striking me, I never dreamed that from it I’d receive such unexpected gifts.

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