I will never forget the day I received the call confirming that I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. So many thoughts ran through my mind as I tried to make sense of what was happening.
How did I have Breast Cancer?
Why didn't Triple Negative mean something good?
Thinking back to the first round of appointments, I remember crying as I prepared to walk in the hospital. The mere thought of walking in made this all real. For weeks, people would ask how I felt and my response was basic as I really didn’t know. Processing and internalizing was not something I was accustomed to. I prefer to digest whatever it is and move on but this wasn't that easy. On that day in the parking garage I cried in my husbands arms and then marked cancer returned to sender. I was ready to tackle this with everything possible.
The known treatment for Triple Negative Breast Cancer is Chemotherapy which kills good and bad cells. I let God handle the bad cells and I focused on repairing the good ones. The first step was finding joy.
How to Find Joy in the Journey
Breast Cancer treatment is a journey. It's one that will follow me for the rest of my life but I was determined to not let it define me. This journey had to have a greater purpose than me. I wanted to show people that despite what it looks like you can find joy. I needed the world to see that it was possible to have laughter, fears, tears, joy, love, and hope.
Redefining Breast Cancer
Hearing those words brings on feelings of isolation and depression. You look around and everything seems the same yet it is different. People start to disappear and fear appears to be written everywhere. At one point, I realized that I was now part of the “sick”, the pitied, and run-down group that people avoided. No longer was the social- butterfly social, people avoided me because breast cancer made them uncomfortable. It is during this time that I grew stronger focusing more on what's important. God places the right people in your life when. you need them.
Breast Cancer twenty years ago is very different from today. There are more treatment options and people working hard to find a cure. But more importantly thanks to social media we can connect more with each other which definitely helps the feeling of isolation.
What Finding Joy Looks Like
Reflecting on my journey with Breast Cancer brings insights and experiences that continue to sustain me professionally and personally. These seven steps are part of how I found joy in the journey.
Giving Back: I have always been a giver but there is something special about receiving a call or text from someone who has received the best three word on this breast cancer journey- No Evidence of Disease
Advocating: I have no problem using my voice but now it serves a bigger purpose. Some of my happiest moments have involved speaking with Congressional members to get support for bills or assisting a patient with getting their needs met.
Self-Care: This looks different to everybody but it's about doing things that lift your spirits and focus on you. It could be watching a favorite television show or enjoying a cup of tea. Consider it a way to honor your body as it heals.
Laughter: Find ways to laugh often. It is contagious and helps the body as you release positive hormones- endorphins. Studies show it helps relieve pain, reduce stress and improves your immunity.
Meditate: Practice focusing on being present in the current moment. Meditating allows your brain and body to rest. It helps give you perspective and builds positive thinking.
Retail Therapy: Shopping has always been a favorite hobby. The thrill of finding a good bargain definitely continues to lift my spirits. During treatment, I tried to dress the way I wanted to feel. Sounds silly but there is something about high heel shoes, red lipstick, and the perfect accessory that makes me feel like a million bucks. Going the extra mile not only made me happy when I looked in the mirror but it uplifted the spirits of others. Lagos recently launched a beautiful pink caviar smart watch band that is elegant and will definitely bring joy.
During the month of October or Pinktober as the breast cancer community calls it, I am very mindful to support companies that actually give back. There are companies that utilize the pink ribbon or color and donate very little if any at all. Lagos is donating 20% of its sales to breast cancer research.
Go Outside: Allow your body to consume the fresh air and enjoy nature.
…Find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all…Robert Louis Stevenson
There are no right or wrong ways for finding joy everyday, just know that you can find it again. It starts and end with you!