You're going through one of the most life-changing and traumatic experiences of your life. Your body is being attacked from the inside, and your outside is changing in new and sometimes scary ways. In these times of uncertainty, it's easy to let your self-esteem fall away. There are ways to keep up your spirit and self-esteem up, you just have to allow yourself the courage to care for yourself.
We are no strangers to seeing our patients and loved ones feeling defeated as they are working their way through cancer treatment, finding their footing after their treatments, and figuring out and finding their bodies again. Your self-esteem can be one of the first things that suffer during this difficult time and one of the last things that you're able to rebuild once you find your footing again. Negative experiences will automatically lower your self-esteem. It's easy to ask questions like, is there something wrong with me that made cancer pick me? Have I done something wrong? Did I make bad choices to make this happen to me? As we have talked about in so many of our other blogs, cancer chooses blindly. Just like in our previous blog, cancer doesn't see a beauty queen or someone fighting to prevent it. It just sees something to attack.
Pain, feeling sick, not having your normal amounts of energy, not being able to sleep or eat after or during treatments are all going to change the way you're living your life. You won't be able to do a lot of the things at the same time, as quickly, or as often as you used to during your treatment. That's okay. By no means should this change how you view yourself, how you impact others, and how you should be living your life. This will change your day to day, but it won't be changing who you are at the core. This whole experience may make you feel less feminine, less attractive, less sure of yourself and who you are now. But you are still all of these things. You are still beauty, feminine, grace, and a woman. This experience may change you and how you look, but all the parts of what makes you unique and what you fought for are still there. There is beauty in that, and you need to keep fighting for that.
When you get to this point in your journey of doubting yourself and you feel your self-esteem dropping, its time to start living a little differently. You might need to depend on more people than ever before, and asking for help. Losing your independence to help deal with everything is hard. You might think people are just seeing you as "the woman with breast cancer". But you are more than that. You are a woman who has breast cancer, yes. But it does not define you. This change might affect how you see your relationships, but in their eyes, they still see the person they love. It's common to feel anxious, sad, low and to have low self-esteem during this process. So don't beat yourself up for feeling these natural emotions. This can also cause you to pull away from your "normal" daily activities, seeing your friends, keeping up with your hobbies, and your work. But if you let the diagnosis win over the things you love in life, then what are you fighting for? Why would you let the diagnosis win and take away your time and quite possibly the only time you have left? You need to fight for you, for your self-esteem, and for the time you have before, during, and after treatment.
Getting out of bed and getting to your treatments and daily life activities is half the battle and will take a lot of energy to get through.
You've made it to this stage, and what now? Life and how you feel are still so much different. You've fought the battle, but what other invisible wounds do you need to patch up?
At the end of the day, keep remembering who you are, what makes you special, and celebrate that. There is nothing wrong with starting over, and there is nothing wrong with taking it at your speed. No one can make these choices for you, and no one defines your happiness. You've made the brave steps to be where you are today, be brave enough to celebrate today and every day you have.
One of the best things we can do as a support group is to tell your stories. You have so much to share with those walking and struggling along a similar path, and no story is stronger than one told by those who need to tell it.
Happy February friends, fellow survivors, and fellow fighters. This month is usually one that celebrates love with candy hearts, cards, and enough rom-com films to drive you crazy. Red, pink, and white everything cover every surface of every drug store, department store, and grocery store that you walk into. But we are no strangers to the color pink. It's not just a color of love and Hallmark Holidays. It's a color of strength, fortitude, determination, and power. It's the color of battle and the color of remembrance. Valentine's Day is just one day, but love is something that should be celebrated in all forms every day. Love is something that keeps us fighting and gives us a reason one way or the other to get up and out of bed and to keep moving. Leave the candy and the cards behind, and let love carry you through all day every day. Don't let one day get you down, let it buoy you in remembering that love and determination are always with you.
In celebration of that idea, we are so excited to open up a new chapter in our blogs. If you have been following us on Instagram and Facebook (which, if you haven't yet, you should!) then you are probably familiar with our posts dedicated to #SurvivorSunday, and asking you to share your survivor stories with us. These are your stories to tell, and no one can tell them better than you. Now that we have had some incredible individuals share their stories with us, we will be dedicating some of our blogs to these people and the stories they have to tell.
We are so very excited to share our very first survivor story with you, and this extraordinary woman might look very familiar. We are honored to share with you the story of Savanna James, who was recently crowned Miss Summerville and will be going on to compete in the Miss South Carolina Pageant later this summer. Her platform is "Breast Cancer Awareness and Prevention." How incredible is that? Her story is unique. It is a story about being a high-risk survivor. We are so proud to share her story because she represents more than half of our patient population. We excited to have her as an advocate for awareness and early detection. We are also very thrilled to announce that she will be apart of our team this summer, and will be a part of several upcoming events. Please keep your eyes and calendars open for that.
Without further ado, we turn this blog over to Savanna James, so she can tell you her story.
"Being 24, I genuinely believed that my "adult" life was just getting started. I had moved to Charleston and started working as Vice President of East West Gem Co. I grew up acting and doing pageants, and even though I knew breast cancer was heavy in my family, I didn't think anything could affect me this early. Unfortunately, this reality was shattered at my yearly OBGYN appointment. I was referred to the Breast Place immediately. After meeting with Dr. Beatty, I was advised that it would be in my best interest to have a double mastectomy. The decision to move forward was not easy, especially at my age, but it is one I am very thankful that I was able to make. I have watched several family members suffer and ultimately pass away from breast cancer. I chose to compete for Miss Summerville, sharing my story, because there are so many people who are unaware that they might be living in the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that others will hear my story and seek help, feeling comforted in knowing that they have options. I do not feel like any less of a woman for going through with the procedure. I honestly feel empowered that I was able to make a strong choice, one that could ultimately save my life. As Miss Summerville, and as Savanna, I hope that others hear my story and are influenced to be proactive, get checked yearly and to do self-checks. At 24, I stand with the 1 in 8.
Dr. Beatty and The Breast Place fully supported Savanna’s decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy. This decision is huge and personal. It should be thought out by each individual who may be facing it with education and research to understand the risks and benefits of undergoing a major surgery. A mastectomy can be life changing as it alters the appearance of the body you have known from birth and the decision to undergo one with or without reconstruction should not be taken lightly. Dr. Beatty encourages everyone in a similar position to research the pros and cons of surgery and understand that reconstructive surgery can be difficult but beautiful. Here at The Breast Place, we support our patients making decisions that are best for them as an individual as healthcare is not “one size fits all.
Breast cancer doesn't choose who it claims. A pageant queen, a mother, a doctor, a sister, a friend, it doesn't matter. What does matter is exactly what Savanna shares, and that is to be aware and stay on top of your health. Take control and take your yearly checkups and self check-ups seriously. At just 24, she made a powerful decision, that although scary, empowered her and gave her the power of taking a step in her battle against cancer. We hope that Savanna's story does give you hope to seek help and take comfort in the fact that there are always options available to you. We are very grateful that Savanna found comfort and help with us, and we hope that if you're looking for the same, you know that our doors are always open to you. Don't live in the "shadow of cancer", but come out into the sun.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Savanna. We are so excited to see where your journey takes you, and to continue working with you in the future. We would also love to hear YOUR stories and to share your experience to comfort and inspire others. If you would like to share, email us your story and a photo of yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org and you may be featured on our social media or in an upcoming blog post.
Remember, don't let Cupid's arrow get you down, and don't let it pop a hole in your sails. Love is something that we celebrate daily, and something we celebrate with you daily. Your journey is a daily struggle. It's hard, messy, scary, and frustrating. Remember that you have a place you are always welcome, and please know you are never alone.