Last year I attended the 2018 YSC Summit (Young Survival Coalition) in Orlando, FL. I got in my car and drove by myself. Not sure of how I would feel or who I would find at this conference for Young Breast Cancer Survivors. There were women I was following on social media that I was looking forward to meeting, but I wasn’t sure how I would be recieved. I was lucky to find some amazing women that could relate to alot of what I was feeling. After going through Breast Cancer a lot changes and not everyone can relate. I was lucky enough to connect with a lot of women, more specifically I connected with 12 women that have changed my life. For the past year we have created a group text and we have poured our hearts out to one another. We have screamed, cried and laughed together. We have shared our struggles of being moms who have survived Breast Cancer. We have shared our frustrations with reconstruction and how our breast will never look or feel the same. We have laughed at the ourselves, because sometimes all you can do is laugh.
All year we’ve been planning to attend the 2019 YSC Summit in Austin, Texas. We even had T-shirts made that say “Breasties Girl Gang”, and just like that we were like 13 year-old girls again. Excited to meet with our Breasties. Excited to have a slumber party and just hang out. Excited to share tips about food and make-up. We were also excited to wear our cowboy boots to the Western night. We rocked those cowboy boots like it was our job!! LOL
Seeing these women again felt so natural. It felt like no time had passed. We instantly connected and it all made sense. It’s funny because without Breast Cancer we might seem like the most unlikely bunch. We are so different and alike at the same time. We all have our own story and Cancer has given us an indiscribable bond.
The best way to describe it is compairing us to “The Breakfast Club” ( BTW, I love that movie). Our friendship makes sense and we each bring something unique to the table. Some are quiet and some are loud. We have different careers and interests. And eventhough we all live in different states and live different lives, we can still be compassionate and lend an ear when one of us needs to vent because she’s having a bad day.
We have all had a different diagnosis, in regards to the type of Breast Cancer and the stages. Some of us are hormone based, some are HER2 +, some carry the BRCA gene, and some are Triple Negative. Some were pregnant during Chemotherapy. Wow! Talk about a serious Warrior!! Even our reconstruction has been different. Some of us have implants, some had the DIEP Flap. I am the only one in the group that is Metastatic, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I look at these beaufitul women that live everyday with the anxiety of a reoccurance. My heart breaks for them and I would rather it be me. I would carry the burden for these women, if it meant that they would be okay and would get to live long amazing lives.
Truthfully, it causes me some anxiety to be around other women with MBC. Last year I met a beautiful soul, Marily. She was a sweetheart and I was looking forward to seeing her again this year. Unfortunately, she passed away. I was heart-broken. Honestly, I don’t know how to feel about all these women dying. I am torn between feeling survivor’s guilt, fear that it could be me and sadness for their families. But then, I meet amazing women like Terlisa, who has been living with MBC for 18 years. She gives me so much hope. She is so positive and an advocate for MBC community. But then there are other women that I just want to punch in the face. I met a women who has been living with MBC for 15 years and she told me she was “over it” and just wanted to die! I didn’t even know what to say to her. I admit I was angry, because there are so many of us that could only pray to make it that long. I am sure she has her own issues, but to say that to someone that is going into her 3rd year…. I just had to stay away from her for the rest of the summit. So now do you see my dilemma???
I have said it before. There’s a lot of politics within the Breast Cancer community. We are not all going to get along. We all have our own way of dealing with our diagnosis. But I will be damned if someone tells me that I am doing it wrong!! That I’m too positive, or that I shouldn’t believe in the power of prayer. I try to live my best life everyday. We should all try to do that, even if you are not terminal. I refuse to let someone tell me that I can’t consider myself a “Warrior” or a “Survivor” because it confuses people. WTH??? I don’t feel the need to shove Cancer down people’s throats. It’s not my way of doing things. Every moment is an opportunity to educate someone about Metastatic Breast Cancer, and Cancer in general. My green hair is a perfect example. I have had people come up to me and say “Do you know your hair is green?” (obviously they think they are funny)… to which I reply with a straight face.. “Yes, I know, the Chemo did it!”… SILENCE…. ahaahahaha I have had people feel like “A-holes” because they have made a comment without knowing my history. I could be aggressive, or I could make a better choice. I can just share my story so that they learn something. Seriously, I feel like people will be more receptive to hear what you have to say if you’re geniune and without all the hostility.
This year I attended a “Special” workshop for MBC thrivers. The topic was leaving a legacy. I am not ready to die, so it was very emotional for me. One thing I did take away from the workshop was making sure I have that core group of people who will tell my story. I know I can rely on my Best Friend LaToya to write my story (She doesn’t know I have assigned her this task yet… SURPRISE… LOL). But I know I can rely on my Breasties to tell my story and to never let my boys forget who their mommy was.
The point of all of this is to say that I am blessed. I am so grateful for my tribe. No one should go through this journey alone. Everyone should have a tribe that supports them 100%. We share alot of things. Not only about the side effects of treatment, but how to try to balance everything; worklife, mommylife, etc. We talk about our bodies and what we can do to feel better about ourselves. I know that I have a “safe space” to vent. It’s a judge-free zone. I can say what’s on my mind and know that they understand. And even if they don’t understand, I still feel validated and supported. I know I am not alone. It also makes me feel somewhat normal to know that I am not the only one struggling with the aftermath of chemo, radiation and surgery. There’s no cookie cutter way of dealing with breast cancer. So even if you don’t have cancer, I pray that you find your Tribe. Everyone should have that person they can call when they are having a bad day. I love my BGGs and I am looking forward to the 2020 YSC Summit.
“The Initiation Sucks, but the Sisterhood is Real”