It was late September when a rug was jerked out from under my feet, shattering my whole world, as I knew it. A breast cancer diagnosis left me shocked, panicked and terrified. Then I got on the cancer treatment train, one appointment after another trying so hard to understand this foreign culture that I had been thrust into.
Surgery and radiation had been completed by Christmas and as New Year’s approached, all I wanted to do was get back to my old self and move on with my life. It all had felt like a nightmare that I just couldn’t wake up from. Despite my efforts, my extreme exhaustion, surgical scars and daily hormone suppressant medication were constant reminders that this cancer was real.
Then I met with another breast cancer THRIVER who validated my journey and fears. I had no idea I needed someone to talk to that had a shared experience. She invited me to A TIME TO HEAL, a 12-week educational support group for people who experienced cancer.
I was so reluctant. I did not want to sit around with a group of people talking about cancer; I just needed to find a way to get on with my life. I called to find out the schedule so hoping I could “rule it out”. It just happened to be scheduled for a day I could attend. Reluctantly I signed up, though telling myself I could always cancel later if I wanted to.
When that day came, I was so angry walking in the CANCER CENTER doors once again. Shortly after group began everyone introduced themselves and described their cancer experiences. I wanted to bawl! I maintained a calm exterior while my voice in my head was screaming: “I can’t believe I am sitting around this table. I can’t believe I had cancer! I didn’t ask to be part of this club! “. I tried to calm myself. I wanted desperately to leave, but something inside urged me to stay.
Once I left group, I cried and raged until well into the evening. I began frantically journaling about everything I was so angry about. Once my emotional balloon deflated, I became to keenly aware that this was the first time I had actually been angry about my cancer experience. I had been so terrified and in the survival mode that anger had not surfaced until then. My anger was not about the group at all; I was angry about cancer!
A dear friend had told me, “if it makes you so upset, maybe you shouldn’t go back!” Deep down I knew that this was precisely why I had to go back. I didn’t want all these emotions lay dormant, only to surface again and again. They were there for a reason and now was my time to notice and honor each of them.
I went back to group and shared honestly about how I felt during the first session. They listened and loved me through it all. The next 11 weeks were filled with support and education that guided me through the process of adjusting to my cancer experience.
Cancer is much more than the diagnosis and treatment. I had already survived that. ATTH helped me recognize and process how cancer affects not only the body but also mind and spirit. I am so grateful for founders of ATTH and staff who tirelessly encouraged each of us “CREATE YOUR BEST LIFE”, each day, in unique ways! We will never forget our cancer experiences but we can learn, grow and use it for good in our lives and the world around us. We are much more than survivors, WE ARE THRIVERS!!
PS: For more information about A Time to Heal and many other cancer resources, please see http://www.hopecancerconnection.org/
If A Time to Heal is not available in your area, please consider attending a local cancer support group. You deserve it!