one of the hardest parts of healing is saying goodbye to what you thought you’d be in this lifetime. because you aren’t the same person & to walk through the rest of life, you have to emerge from your old shell and find a new one. and i am finding that sentiment to basically be true about everything that we heal from. it’s all about figuring out how to be the newest version. even if you’re healing from a broken arm- you still have to navigate all the new normals after the cast comes off. maybe it’s figuring out how to hold your purse. or maybe it’s trying a new way to shower and shampoo your hair. maybe it’s turning the steering wheel. maybe it hurts a little to sleep on that side. or it’s challenging to raise that arm to put your shirt on. it’s an adjustment. and it takes time. i just spent a solid fifteen minutes going through my own instagram timeline. i wasn’t searching for anything in particular at first. just trying to keep my mind going. but in the back of my mind, i was trying to find out how many times i had referenced my cancer journey in the last twelve months. only three times. once for my two year remission date, once for breast cancer awareness month and once for relay for life. three times. and i know what you might be thinking. why does that even matter? and i guess i am feeling some type of way right now. and as i counted the cancer references over the last thirty months, there were only eight. eight. eight times in nearly three years. sure, that’s eight more than a person not going through something like that. but again- why does it matter? ugh. probably because my brain keeps playing this text message on repeat. a text message ending a five year friendship. and it ended with a slew of big stabs at me, including my cancer journey. and when i read it, i was truly baffled and maybe you will be too. here it is- “you’ve gone through significant life events, and i am not at all discrediting those, but it can be truly difficult at times to know what conversations to have, topics to bring up, or even things to do/see when it feels like your entire world now revolves around the fact that you had breast cancer. i don’t know how to relate to it. i have been there through treatment, reoccurrence scares, and official remission. but it seems that you’re still fully holding on to that identity.” brutal, right? honest, for sure. and i don’t discredit anyone for saying what’s up, but damn. and that was just one dig. there were about five more. but that’s not the point either. because i am still cycling that chunk of words. two years in remission, nearly three years into all of this and after five separate scares in one year. healing. that’s what they call it, right? where you continue to face something and try to better understand who you are in all of it. and after all of it. when the fate of your life hangs on sheer hope. that the first five years in remission are the most critical. that bouncing right back out of it is most likely in the first five. and that my whole identity was stripped away. and i have done allllll of the hard work and had all of the ugly conversations. and at one point, had three therapists.

i have worked tirelessly to make it to this point. trudging through the early days of survivorship, where i actually questioned my existence. and lost four friends to the same terrible disease. riddling me with survivors guilt that i thought would never go away. attending funerals and wakes wearing a wig and a dress high enough to cover my port. trudging through going back to work, even though my legs hurt and my hair was growing painfully slow. entering a classroom that was a full on photo album of my life before it all happened. and five individual reoccurrence scares. lumps, back pain, full skin rashes, liver damage, blood work. and holding my breath each time. and reminding myself that whatever happens, happens. not because of some will of the universe or because someone out there chose me. not because i am strong enough to handle it. just because. it’s how the cards were dealt. but here i am, just a few months after i hit the two year milestone and a text like that exists. in my inbox. a girl who is truly just figuring things out. because what has happened to me is my own story. and it’s not my whole story. but it’s a pretty important part of my whole book. it’s an impactful one. but it’s not the entire part of me. but what a lot of people fail to realize is that eventually, this version of myself that exists now; it will eventually be the version that lasts longer than the first version. it will begin to replace the original one. it will grow and foster a million new things and the old version will slip further and further away. memories of that version and that body will be hard to pull to focus. and that’s pretty incredible but it’s also bittersweet. because just like i said earlier, one of the hardest parts of healing is saying goodbye to what you thought you’d be in this lifetime. because you aren’t the same person & to walk through the rest of life, you have to emerge from your old shell and find a new one. and even though i have a new shell, everything is different. and my identity is still being shaped and formed. but it will also always be rooted in the things that brought me here. in the moments that changed me. in the hard times. when it didn’t feel like it would ever end. when it just didn’t make sense to me. when i didn’t understand what it all would mean to me later.

but now, i do. i was meant to still be here. not sure why it had to go down like that but it’s okay. i think the universe knows to just send a letter next time. but my purpose is still in the making. my trauma is still healing. my work is in progress. my identity is, well, it’s a lot of things. it’s not entirely cancer. it’s not even entirely anything. because my world has shifted. and my feelings and my thoughts and what i have been through and even what i haven’t been through yet- they are all a part of who i am and who i am yet to be. and even though that ugly and hurtful text message is fresh on the brain, it doesn’t mean that it is true. it doesn’t give power to other people to define me or try to box my identity into something that feels good for them. i also don’t owe anyone anything different from what i am serving right now at my table.

everyone is entitled to their opinions and how they feel about me. you can feel however you want about my cancer. or my journey. or my healing. or my trauma. but at the end of the day, it’s mine. not yours. and if it bothers you so much, you don’t have to sit with me. because i want you to eat, but i just don’t want you eating at my table anymore.


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