This is the first of what I am hoping to be many letters from those living with breast cancer to those who have been newly diagnosed. I use the term “survivor” as an all-encompassing one, to include not only those who have completed treatment, but for all of us who are living with this disease. I am starting this initiative because I want to create a dynamic community of voices of hope, courage, compassion, and support for those whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. If you are interested in contributing, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I vividly remember the first time the doctor said “cancer” to me. My heart dropped to my knees, and I shook in disbelief. The first few days and weeks were a sea of tears and sadness. I felt so scared, so alone, so confused. I didn’t know what had happened to me, how the rug got pulled out from under my family so abruptly. I was afraid I was going to die. Slowly, I began regaining my footing. I began finding my new normal. It has not been that long for me – nearly four months. But I am still here. And so, too, will you be.
It’s a strange feeling, navigating this illness. You may not want to talk about it, and you may want to talk about it a lot. And both are okay. Honor your moment. Whatever you are feeling or experiencing, whether it is anger, or frustration, or sadness, or finding happiness in the midst of grief; whatever that is is okay. Give yourself the gift of letting go: let go of that which holds you back, brings you down, binds you. Some days are hard, and they will stretch you so thin, you think you will snap. You do not have to be strong all of the time; creating space for yourself to rest and find respite is a strong and courageous act in itself.
You will hear things about how tough you are and how much of a fighter you are. And you won’t necessarily see yourself in those words, because you didn’t choose to have to be tough. But you will open your eyes one day and realize the vastness of your strength and the immense courage you have learned to summon to survive. Cancer becomes the lens though which you view and live your life, and through that lens, you will see in yourself the incredible, unbelievable tenacity of the human spirit – your spirit.
Every night, as I try to fall asleep, I have found a mantra that I repeat to myself: “You are beautiful. You are powerful. You are stronger than you can imagine. And you can do this.”
And so can you.
With all of my love,