Have you ever heard the saying, “one year can change everything?”
That’s what my 28th year of life was; it was the year that changed everything.
When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING.
There isn’t an area of my life that was left untouched. It was a year that changed me in such a way that sometimes I find it hard to remember my old self. There are a few pieces of who I used to be that I managed to salvage, but not much of who I was before that year remains.
I’m ok with that.
I’ve learned how to be ok with it.
I welcomed 28 with open arms, high expectations, and big plans. It was going to be my year.
In return, 28 strung me along with promises of an amazing year only to lead me blindly into a brick wall.
I never saw it coming.
There were no red flags.
No warning. It just…happened.
The year I had anxiously anticipated had quickly become the one I hated. I felt an overwhelming sense of betrayal. I planned for this year. Now, all those plans were out the window.
When I sat all dolled up in a downtown restaurant with my close friends celebrating my 28th birthday—This was not at all the 28 I had in mind. This was a 28 I would have never wished on my worst enemy.
This was a nightmare.
It was either going to be the year that made me or the year that broke me. It was either going to be a sob story or a tale of triumph.
Many times, I sit back and reflect on that year and I try to remember “her.”
I try to remember the girl I was, the 28-year-old that was so ready to embrace all that year had in store. I often search for her, staring long and hard in the mirror and finding little to no traces of that girl.
When the details seem to get mixed up—I reference my body.
My body is a highlighted, underlined, bold document that holds all the details of that year. I sometimes wonder what she would say to me. It wasn’t until recently that I really took the time to be still, be quiet and wait for her to speak.
Do you want to know what she said?
“You forgot about me.”
How could I forget about myself?
I was there that night when the lump was felt underneath my shirt.
It was my heart that raced when the doctor said “I’m sorry. It’s cancer,” that day on the phone.
It was me who dug my nails into the side of the chair, eyes shut tight and streaming tears during the biopsy.
I sat in that conference room as the doctors rattled off the treatment plan.
It was me in the blue recliner for four months!
I had my breasts taken from me!
How did I forget about myself?
Is it possible that I spent my entire battle with breast cancer, fighting for everyone else? The words you forgot about me rang out like a gong in my head. Is it possible that I was so busy making sure everyone else was ok that I forgot about…me?
When I received the call about my diagnosis, my first thought was I don’t know how I am going to tell my family. I don’t think my mom is going to handle this well at all. I wanted to break down and cry when the doctor told me I had cancer, but I didn’t. I didn’t break down because I wanted to be strong for everyone around me.
I forgot about…me.
I was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. I was also a mom. There is no sick leave for moms. I had to make sure my boys were ok. I had to check homework and prepare dinner. I had to read bedtime stories and fight the imaginary bad guys. I needed to be there for my kids.
I forgot about…me.
I had been at my job just over a year when I was diagnosed with cancer. I was finally making my new position my own. I had new projects and meetings to attend. I needed to make sure I scheduled all the posts and set up all the blogs. What about my job?
I forgot about…me.
It was possible.
It was true.
I had forgotten about her.
I had forgotten about me.
I felt terrible. I gave so much and put so much energy into making sure everyone else was ok that I neglected her. I didn’t allow her to just feel. I forced her to be “strong” when she really wanted to break down. I refused help when she was struggling. I lied and said she felt fine when she was in pain. I made her feel guilty for asking why? I made her feel inadequate.
I put unnecessary pressure on her to be a superwoman.
She was scared.
She was angry.
She was sad.
When she stood in front of the mirror peeling her hair from her scalp, she needed someone there to hold her hand. Instead, I made her go through it alone. She comforted people when she really needed to be comforted. I made her push herself when she was exhausted.
I was unforgiving.
I was relentless.
I forgot about…her.
My heart broke for her.
My heart broke for me.
I vowed to do better. She taught me that it’s ok to be selfish. She taught me that you have to allow yourself to feel. She taught me that there is strength in vulnerability. I admire and appreciate her resiliency. She powered through that year with poise and power in spite of my negligence.
Most importantly, she taught me how to never forget about me again.
Blog post published on For The Breast of Us