On April 28th and 29th, 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host its Sixth Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer. In preparation for that event along with our video blog series, we introduced Pat Biedermann, an LBBC Helpline volunteer who happens to be living with metastatic breast cancer. In this multi-series, Pat will share with you–not only her story–but her “tricks and tips” on how to live (and live well) with the disease.
I am currently a stage IV breast cancer survivor and have been for 6 ½ years. When I look in the mirror today, I see my lopsided breasts; a scar from hip to hip; a five-inch deep hole in my stomach; no eyebrows or eyelashes. My hair, at one time, was thick and dark brown (with a little help); today it’s very fine and very gray after seventeen months of chemo (Taxol and Avastin).
I see all this and I smile because I see the body, face, and soul of a survivor and a warrior. When I look in the mirror today, I think how proud author Louise Hay (You Can Heal You Life) would be of me. When I look in the mirror today I see the person I want to be remembered as and I can say that I love what I see in the mirror.
The one bodily function that is so much better today than it was before I was diagnosed is my eyesight because hindsight is 20/20! If only I could go back to that young woman I was ten years ago and talk to her then about what I see now.
When I started this journey, I was at the height of my real estate career. I drove the latest car, had the latest fashion, nails and hair. My daughter always said (I believe with sarcasm) that I looked like a Realtor. I am not so sure she was paying me a compliment. In fact, I am sure she wasn’t because she approves of the mother I am today much more than the mother I was then, and I am about as far removed from my old self as possible.
The day I had the lumpectomy done in June 2002, I thought “well, that doesn’t look too bad.” Next came the mastectomy with re-construction in August 2002. I remember thinking “Maybe I’ll get a tummy tuck out of this.” When I had a difficult time healing in my abdomen and wound up with a 5″ hole in my stomach, I consoled myself by thinking, “well, what the heck…I’m alive.”
So, if I COULD go back and give advice to the woman I was, here is what I would honestly say to her: “None of the stuff you are worrying about matters. It doesn’t matter because it is not who you are. Cancer will make you a kinder, more caring, more sensitive, more patient human being. You will be more in touch with your body and your spirituality than you have ever been before. You will experience the triumph of surviving and the joy of cherishing all your happy days. You will glow from within and that glow will make you so attractive that strangers will be drawn to you and find you beautiful. “I would paraphrase the Melissa Etheridge lyrics from Run For Life: “Cancer cut into my skin and cut into my body, but it will never get a piece of my soul.”
Of course, I cannot go back in time, so I am trying to do the next best thing. I am writing about my experiences and feelings so that, maybe, I can remind other cancer survivors to pause as they look in the mirror and see the true beauty of their souls, which is the only beauty that lasts anyway, and the only one that counts!
Stop back next Wednesday when we post the final installment of Pat’s series where she discusses “Stress Management.”
Pat enjoy walks out in nature, reading and spending time with family and friends. Visit our website for more information on the Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and to Register for the April event. Additional resources can be found through LBBC’s Understanding Guides: Metastatic Breast Cancer Series. Later this year, LBBC will produce a guide for women newly diagnosed with metastatic cancer.