LBBC blogger and friend Tiffany Mannino is back, but this time, instead of sharing one of her entries from her self-titled letters ‘Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress’ penned to her unborn daughter Lola during her breast cancer journey, she’s here to share what being 5 years out from her cancer diagnosis means to her and what she’s learned in the process…
Three weeks ago, I celebrated my five year survivor anniversary. Whether or not the medical world would allow me to call myself ‘cured’, December 16th was an absolutely incredible day and a milestone I will never forget. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I as reflect on the last five years of my life, I believe that it also takes a village to raise a cancer survivor. I will never forget when it first hit me that I had my very own village. May 2010…my first Race for the Cure as a survivor. Our Breastfix at Tiffany’s team of more than twenty came together on a very cold, May morning. I was freezing and SO weak from chemo, but I crossed that finish line with tears in my eyes and incredible joy in my heart. I can’t ever remember a time feeling more loved and supported.
I can’t believe that moment was almost five years ago. In some ways it seems like yesterday and in other ways it seems like a lifetime ago. Of course, me being me, I have taken a lot of time to reflect on what I’ve learned and how I have grown from this experience. In some ways, my post cancer journey has been more difficult than being in ‘battle mode’. Having cancer changed the course of my life and although I was unbelievably thankful that God healed me, I also had to ask, “Ok. I’m alive. Now what?” I was in my late thirties, divorced, unable to bear children, and completely lost. Several years later, I’m still trying to figure it all out, but the greatest thing I have learned is that I am so blessed because although I may not know where my life is headed, I have a village. I have family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, students, parents, doctors, yogis, trainers, fellow survivor sisters, bloggers, and even former boyfriends who love and support me no matter what.
I used to think I had to be perfect. I used to think that I had to be strong all of the time. I spent most of my life only showing the people I love the best part of me, not all of me. Being a fiercely independent overachiever, I didn’t want to ever ask anyone for help or show my vulnerabilities. Well, cancer changed all of that. It has taught be to be authentic and unapologetic for the less than perfect parts of me. So here it is. I am a woman who struggles with anxiety, depression, and insane bouts of insomnia. I am moody and overly sensitive. When I am angry, I have quite the potty mouth, and have been known to slam doors and break things. I take a ridiculously long time to get over people. I am late and forgetful. I am the worst at returning phone calls. I question and overanalyze everything. And yet, despite all of these things and I’m sure many more, I have a village; a village of people who love me.
Thank you to everyone in my village for loving me in all the ways that you do. Thank you for all of the amazing memories we have shared over the last five years. Thank you for the incredible adventures. The family dinners, the road trips, the voxes, the travels around the world, the wine tastings, the game nights, the football games, the Fall Fests, the happy hours, the girls nights, the movies, the beach days, the train rides, the mud runs, the paint parties, the fundraisers, the dancing, the Zumba, the boot camps, the emails and texts, the birthday celebrations, the holidays and Sunday Fundays, the fashion shows and neighbor nights, the sleepovers, the bingo, the craft nights, the deep conversations, the silliness, the laugh until our bellies hurt, the hugs, and even the cathartic cry fests. These moments are what make life worth living and fighting for. Thank you for enriching my life. Thank you for being my village.
Tiffany Mannino is an elementary school teacher, world traveler, Zumba freak, and young breast cancer survivor who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She has found that expressing her emotions through writing and painting has helped her deal with facing cancer at a young age and has brought her profound healing. Several of her writing pieces have been featured in books including the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series.