Everyone handles grief and disappointment in his or her own way. It is hard to anticipate how you will react until you’re getting kicked around by shock, anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, helplessness, loss…just searching for a solid emotional ground to land on. Fortunately (or unfortunately) my family and Jonathan and I have already had a few turns on this ride. We know the benefits of being present with your emotions and taking things one day at a time. Something my mom said to me after we told her was “It feels bad to say this, but I am good at this. I know how to square my shoulders and walk into the storm.” The last 2 posts we put up have been describing some of the things we can’t control in this storm. I want this post to be about the empowering choices have made to find joy. Before we could make any choices we had to internalize these 2 statements:
- We will not be in denial but will recognize this as our new reality. This is happening.
- Within our new reality we will claim as many opportunities as possible for life, laughter and fun – Cancer takes a lot but we will not allow it to take everything
On to some of the choices we have made:
1. We did a boudoir photo shoot. It was something we had talked about but never actively pursued because we had time…until we didn’t. It’s not that we thought the future was now black, but just after the surgery/treatment everything would now be different and we wanted to capture this current moment in images. We had been saving some money for a trip we now couldn’t go on and decided to use it to hire a professional and couldn’t have been happier. We were blessed with a Google search that turned up Lesley and Adley Studio who arranged the most amazing shoot in only a few days. Seriously, it was 1 week from diagnosis to the shoot…fortunately there was a good make up artist because I still had bruises from the biopsy. But it was perfect and we couldn’t be happier with the images! Obviously, most of them are not for public display but here are a couple breast cancer statement images that are fun.
2. After we got the diagnosis we had a “Kick cancer’s ass party” at a local pub with some friends here in Groningen. It was a ton of fun because we have awesome friends. It was also symbolic because we were not going to be quiet about what we are going through and will party when we feel like it.
3. We had already planned a week ski trip to the French Alps that happened to fall right before the surgery and even though we couldn’t go on the full trip we made the effort to at least enjoy 3 days. It was beautiful spring skiing weather, and while the snow was a bit slushy the views and alpine air were unbeatable.
4. I have done more shopping recently than I normally do. There is something about having some fun new clothes and knowing you look good to lift your spirits. I bought a few dresses with wild busy prints and some awesome new boots that I wear almost daily. It helps me walk out of the house with a smile on my face.
5. Last week I dyed my hair a red/purple/brown color. I figured why not? My hair will be gone in 1-2 weeks and now is the opportunity to try something I never would have had the guts to do before. I walked into the drug store picked out a box and voila! I think it turned out awesome and it is admittedly not quite as red as this picture makes it look but still a big shift from my natural color. I have been asked whether it will now be harder to shave off…no way, because I never would have done it otherwise.
6. I will shave my head. I haven’t done this yet but rather than letting chemo take my hair in chunks it will come off with a razor. It feels more empowering to choose when and how it goes rather than just letting it happen. And also, I have an awesome friend in the Philips grooming department who made me my very own custom Breast Cancer Pink balder complete with a ribbon at the bottom if you look close. IT IS AWESOME! I think the Philips marketing department should pick up on this.
7. I am learning to knit and crochet to keep myself busy during the chemo/radiation process. So far I’ve made 3 hats and a poncho. Not everything has turned out exactly as I have planned but it is fun to learn and experiment.
8. The IVF process was also a choice we made and obviously it did not go quite as planned it still helped us to feel like we were able to do something for the future. We would also choose to do it again if we had to do it over.
9. I have continued to run/exercise as much as my body will allow. And I have signed up for a chemo exercise program to hopefully help me keep some fitness level while my body is undergoing treatment.
Thanks if you made it all the way to the end of this. It was a long-ish one.