I had my mastectomy on a Wednesday. I think it was Friday morning, when the anesthesia finally wore off, that I had my breakdown.
Not being in my right mind, I could be wrong.
What I know for sure is that cancer had been eating away at my emotions for the past six and a half months, and I was completely devastated. It didn’t take much for all those tubes and bandages, and a missing breast, to push me over the edge.
I was no longer able to cope. Worse, I was terrified I would be discharged into the void and left to face my mental, emotional and physical recuperation completely depleted and alone.
Suddenly a nurse walked into the room and introduced herself as my patient navigator. She sat beside my bed and told me about cancer support services available to me even after I left the hospital. (It was the first time in six and a half months that anyone discussed support services with me.)
As we talked, I went from hopelessness and isolation to connection. After I left the hospital, I started showing up for every support service I could. I signed up for support groups and rehabilitative exercise classes. I met regularly with my patient navigator and committed to seeing a therapist once a week for a year.
My cancer center became my home away from home. I was filled with gratitude and found myself saying “thank you” a million times a day. But, as time went on, I was filled with an overwhelming desire to give back and needed to do more.
Which didn’t come easily.
At first, I just didn’t have the energy to give back. I was frustrated, but my therapist assured me I had to focus on my own healing and then, when I was ready, opportunities to give back would appear.
Of course, she was right and eventually, opportunities fell into my lap – encouraging other survivors, volunteering with the Cancer Hope Network, working as a patient educator with the Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project and creating WhereWeGoNow, to name just a few.
Recently, I signed on to work with CureClick and serve on its Advisory Board. As a CureClick Trial Ambassador, I use social media to reach out to cancer patients to let them know about clinical trials. So far as a result of my efforts, two people have qualified for a clinical trial for people with HR+, HER2- Breast Cancer.
As I reach out and give back, I think about what it meant to me to find support. Giving back in gratitude for all the support I received is healing, or as Maya Angelou said, “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
Is giving back a part of your healing from cancer? Tell me about it in the comments, I answer every one.
Survival > Existence,