The day it all fell down

I woke that Friday morning wearing my Terry Fox shirt and trying to smile. They told me I wouldn’t have the results of my biopsy until the following week and so I was doing my best to stay busy.

As usually my toddler woke up and wanted “boobies!” We snuggled in bed, nursed and took happy smiling pictures.

I took my big kids to school and took K to strong start (a parent/tot drop in) we weren’t there for long when the call came. I knew that number. I asked someone to keep an eye on K and went outside. I paced. I was wearing leggings and a tank top. I should have sat down. If no news is good news then news days early is definitely bad. I can’t remember the exact words. I know she said invasive ductal carcinoma, I know she said aggressive. I sat on the concrete steps- I was trying to breathe and not cry while on the phone but that meant trying to get off the phone as quick as possible. I made phone calls, I cried, I gasped for air. I got K and we went to a friends house who gave me exactly what I needed at that time. She let me sit in her couch, she made me tea, she took care of K and she just let me be. I took phone calls coming in faster than I could process. Appointments with my new oncologist, my new surgeon, appts for scans and blood work. I’ll forever be grateful for a friend that knew the true meaning of holding space.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the day. It’s a blur. I know my brother came over. I know I collapsed into my loves arms as soon as he got home. I know flowers from a friend arrived at my door. I remember finding the words to post to FB and IG knowing I wanted to get it out of the way.

“Apparently this year in order to prepare for Breast Cancer Awareness Month I actually got Breast Cancer.

No this is not a joke. Yes I am serious.

After finding a lump in a breast, an ultrasound, biopsy and mammogram I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer at 33 after 18 years of being cancer free.

I am heartbroken, I am overwhelmed, I am tired, I am frustrated and I am angry. Right now I don’t want to be strong or positive. Today I am crying, feeling, grieving, processing and being human. Today I am feeling the unfairness of it. Today I don’t care about cure rates. Today I wish my biggest concern regarding my boobs was how much they sag.

I don’t know yet what this diagnosis means yet. All I know is that cancer fucking sucks. I also know it’s messed with the wrong person. I am determined. I am loved. I am supported. I am strong.

Love, light, prayers, glitter and sparkles are all welcome and appreciated.”

Most of all I remember being angry. I remember wanted to scream. I remember crying myself to sleep.

It’s been 2 years since that day and so much has happened that it feels like a lifetime but the way I feel about reminds me that 2 years is nothing. In 2 years I lost my breast, my hair and ovaries. I’ve gained truth, resiliency and love. I’ve learned many lessons. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried (sometimes at the same time) I’ve had ups and downs. I had moments I thought I would truly break and moments I felt on top of the world. I’ve continued to learn what I really want from this life. The best part is In 2 years I’ve gotten to watch my kids grow and fallen more in love with my love. Which is all I really need and want. Here’s to each day. To finding something everyday that makes you happy. To being human and real and vulnerable. Here’s to life- because it can change in the blink of an eye.

The days before it all fell down

This week…..

Fuck this week.
Fuck the ptsd.
Fuck the memories.
Fuck the physical way my body is holding onto this trauma.

I’m remembering. 
I’m breathing. 
I’m trying to just be. 

On Sunday I woke up with a blinding migraine. The pain so bad I could barely open my eyes. Telling myself not to vomit. Ice on my head. Repeating to myself “you’re ok” and “you’re safe” over and over. Pushing out the voices that creep in saying “maybe it’s cancer.” 
Through the pain I remembered what day it was….September 15th. 

On September 15, 2017 I woke up alone. No kids and no partner for the first time in years. I tried to work except the nagging in my head wouldn’t stop. “you have no excuses, go to the walk in clinic, go now.

The day before I had finally googled my symptoms. I was going to prove my partner wrong. I was going to put his worries at ease. The lump was breastfeeding related. The lump was nothing. 
Instead one red flag after another. Instead each new website giving the same information.  

Lump is painless- check
Lump is unmovable- check
Lump isn’t smooth- check

Check.

CHECK

CHECK.

It was a Friday morning and the walk in clinic was dead. Almost eerily quiet. I went back right away. The Dr seemed almost surprised how quickly and easily he felt the lump. He did not tell me I was too young for breast cancer and he didn’t put my mind at ease with “it’s probably nothing.” Instead he asked me if I still had an oncologist from my bone cancer.  Gave me a requisition for blood work and an order for a CT scan. 

I walked out of the clinic numb. I left a voicemail for my oncologist, got my blood work done and was surprised with how quickly she called back. Again no reassurances just “breast cancer is very treatable” 

It was then that without knowing I knew. 

I remember the sun. 
I remember my fresh pedicure.
I remember holding in the tears as I went for a spa treatment. 
I remember cancelling my plans for that night.
I remember sobbing to my best friend on the phone. 
I remember sobbing to another friend at her kitchen table.
I remember trying to get work done.
I remember telling myself I was overeacting.
I remember my love racing home from his work conference.
I remember another friend come to be with me with snacks. 

I spent the weekend in a haze of what ifs.

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_______________________________________________________________________
Monday September 18, 2017.

Another sunny day. 
Another day being mom, getting kids ready for school, going to the park, making small talk.
Being distant because I could feel my life was about to change. 
Wanting so badly to connect with the parents around me and yet feeling like I was drowning.
Wondering if they could see the worry on my face.
The call came, a ultrasound and biopsy in 2 days. 

Today looked so much like that Monday in so many ways, in too many ways to count. In so many ways that it was impossible to not remember. It was impossible for my body to not feel exactly the same way it did 2 years ago on the brink of my life changing.

As I get closer to my official diagnosis anniversary I’m trying. I’m trying to process and navigate. I’m trying to honour where I was then and where I am now. I’m trying to let myself feel how I feel without pushing the emotions away. I’m being honest both with myself and those around me. I’m reminding myself that 2 years isn’t that long to heal. I’m giving myself love and kindness.  

My Story….in pictures

When Kendal first reach out to me a year ago about her idea to start documenting I honestly didnt know why. I was very up front and told her that the story was mostly done. I had had my double mastectomy, chemo was done and while I was still mostly bald hair was definitely making a come back. While I still had a couple surgeries ahead I was already feeling the pressure to get back to normal. The rush to put cancer behind me. I really thought I had nothing to say and she wouldn’t have much to document. These last few months have very much proved otherwise. 16 months since I lost my breast  (has it really been that long?) Over a year since chemo and things are…different. They haven’t gone back to before. In some ways things are much better and in others I still struggle… a lot actually. Cancer will never be in my past but ingrained into the very fabric of who I am and I’m excited to share that and more. The more because I am so much more than cancer, so so much.

Check out the start of Kendals project here

My story through Kendal

 

Why I don’t hide.

I try to take my girls swimming once a week. 

I take them in the Womens change room when I could use the family one or even the disability rooms. 

I get changed with them in the middle of the room instead of behind the privacy curtains. 

 I’ll be honest though, this is hard. It’s one thing to take off my leg at cancer camp or when I am speaking to a room full of middle schoolers. It’s one thing to show my reconstructed breast to other women going through it or through a photographers lens. In a locker room where the people around me don’t know me or my story and have to come up with their own narrative is a lot more scary.

 I have no idea what they think when I take off my prosthetic to drain the water and change my wet stump sock into a dry one. Do they wonder if I was born like this? Do they think it’s gross or weird?

I have no idea if they look at my “breast” and wonder why I would get fake boobs. Or what thoughts they have about my “boob job”

It takes some deep breaths, some telling myself I am safe, some telling myself that what they wonder or think doesn’t matter. But I  go through this process each and every time I go to the pool, each and every time I get changed in a room of strangers. 

I know I am making a choice to do that. 

My choice in changing in a room full of strangers is intentional. 

It is intentional. 

Me dressing and undressing right in the open where other women can see me. I do it because I want to show my girls they don’t have to hide their bodies. I do it because I want them to grow up knowing what body positivity looks like. 

I am making that choice for me, to build my own confidence. To hope that one day I won’t wonder let alone care what others think about me. I hope to raise strong and powerful girls who can say “if my mom can love her body scars, amputations and all then so can I”

Today though the hard was harder than usual. Today a mom was nursing her baby. My girls are not shy and they engaged in a conversation with her. Soon it was talk about boobies. K made an observation “you have boobies.” The women looked at her and said “all mommies have boobies.” I could feel my heart in my throat. I wanted to cry because no, not all mommies have boobies. E piped up “my mom doesn’t, she had hers cut off” The women looked at me confused and half naked in a pool change room I told a small part of my story. Without preparation. Without wanting to. 

It will come up again. My children will make conversation and it will come up that mommy had cancer. It will come up that mommy had her boobies cut off. That mommy has a robot leg. They will hear their mom tell her story and one day they might now how hard that is sometimes and in knowing how hard it is I hope they see my strength. I hope they know I could have hidden but I chose not to. I hope it gives them the strength not to hide either. 

A night of Burlesque

I’ve been to a few burlesque shows. I have loved the glitz, glamour and art of seduction. I’ve always sat in the audience happy with my view from my seat.

Something happened last year though. A shift. A friend asked me to come to the local burlesque show with her. I was still recovering from my double mastectomy and about to start chemo and honestly I was on the fence because I didn’t know how I would feel. The night came and I just wasn’t ready to be out and about. I didn’t want to have people tell me I looked good or ask how my surgery had gone (I live in a small town, going out means being ready to see a lot of people you know)

A few months later my best friend asked me if I wanted to go see Dita Von Teese with her. You can read about that here. It’s what led me from being unable to even go to a show to being on stage a couple weeks ago.

As I practised my solo (honestly who the fuck does a solo their first time doing burlesque) I was so nervous. So many thought went through my head. “Why am I doing this. What if I mess up? What if I throw up” The first time I did my routine in front of all the other dances my heart was beating so loud I couldn’t hear the music. My timing was WAY off, I messed up, but I heard our leader say “keep going!” so I did, I kept going and it was ok. The world didn’t collapse and no one told me I was horrible. I came home that night and practiced over and over. I listened to my song on repeat. The next time we had rehearsal I was better, and the next time after that even better. With each practice my confidence grew, my heart was beating less. I could actually hear the music.

One night after I had practiced in front of my partner he has asked me why I was doing this. My first response was that I’m doing it for other women. That I wanted women in the audience to go “if she can love her body with one leg and reconstructed breast than I can love my body too”  Since then I’ve thought a lot about why I’ve entered this world of burlesque and here are my so many reasons why.

I do it because I don’t just want to find beauty in normal, I want to find beauty in all bodies period.

I do it because I’m told over and over again that disabled people are less worthy and I’m tired of it.

I do it as a fuck you to all the men who told me they would date me “if only you had 2 legs” and anyone else who has shown my pity because I only have one leg.

I do it because I love my body.

I do it because I love to dance.

I do it because I needed to take ownership of that this new body is in fact mine and mine alone.

I do it because I LOVE seeing people with disabilities challenging peoples perceptions of what we can and can not do.

I got on stage and I was addicted. The music, the lights, the audience. I went into another world. I got off stage after and it was all I could do not to burst into tears from the rush of emotions. I did it and trust me I’ll do it again.

 

Introducing…..Ms Eileen Wright 😉

Kendal Blacker PhotographyKendal Blacker PhotographyKendal Blacker Photography

 

 

All photos credited to Kendal Blacker Birth and Photography. Please do not edit or alter in anyway.

October is over and thank goodness for that!

It’s no longer October!! Thank fucking goodness.

October used to be my favourite month of the year. All in one month there are my 2 most favourite holidays (thanksgiving and Halloween) and my birthday! There is something to celebrate almost every weekend.

This year I’ll admit was it was hard. In between the fun and celebrations, in the moments of every day living I was constantly assaulted with the pain of my trauma. There was pink fucking everywhere. I tried to escape for a weekend and went on a trip with my partner. I got on the plane only to be served drinks on napkins with pink ribbons, to walk in an airport COVERED in banners of pink ribbons. I tried hard not to jump to conclusions and every time I saw something else promoting pink and support of breast cancer I would research. How are they helping? How are they bringing awareness. Not ONE product made reference to self exams or mammograms and a large majority supported charities where less than 10% actually goes to research. Each time I checked and each time I realized how much money companies make off this disease my heart dropped.

I found myself taking a lot of deep breaths. This month I got angry, and I got sad. My family was affected because I was affected. I lost my patience more and I struggled HARD. I struggled so hard to take care of myself and I feel like I failed over and over, I would work through one trigger only to go out in the world and have my face shoved into the next.

Can you imagine going through a trauma and having that trauma shoved in your face for one whole month. Where you can’t even go to the grocery store for bananas without seeing a sticker that represents your trauma. Or go to the bathroom without seeing how yet anther company PROFITS from your trauma. Can you imagine the anxiety, triggers and PTSD you would have to deal with because in “support” of you people are actually causing MORE harm. 

Knowing people profit off a disease that kills thousands of women a year makes me sick. Knowing that people are willing to put countless women through the experience of relieving their trauma so they can feel good makes me want to cry.

For the first time I in my life I’m happy to be saying good bye to October. I’m happy that this month I will take less deep breaths and that I will feel more present for myself and my children. Because breast cancer awareness should be about helping women with this shitty disease, not harming them more.

Body Positive??

I used to walk around my house naked. blinds up, windows open. I didn’t care. When other were busy covering up I was letting it all hang out.

I don’t do that anymore. Ever since my last surgery I have to be in a sports bra almost 24/7 for the next few months. It’s been an adjustment. Going from someone that takes my bra off the second I can, finding them the next day under the couch and in the corner of the living room to always having it on my body. Being naked so much meant I often caught glimpses of my nakedness in the mirrors or reflection of widows. It means I had an intimate knowledge of my body and what it looked like and how it moved.

Breast cancer and my surgeries have taken the once intimate knowledge I held. The other day I was in my closet where the only full length mirror in my house exits and I got naked and I looked. I turned, I made myself look at each part of my body individually and then pulled back and looked at it as a whole. I don’t know why but it felt so important to look at myself and really see.  It no longer felt like mine, and I so badly need it to feel like mine. It’s taken me months to really look at how my new breast have settled. To really see the dimples in my implants. To look at the new stretch marks created by steroids from chemo.

A few months ago I went to a Dita Von Teese show. My best friend and I bought tickets months before and it ended up that the show was a mere 2 weeks after my exchange surgery to swap my tissue expanders to implants. I sat there loving all the beautiful and natural bodies, but there was a part of me chocking back silent tears. This was a celebration of the various body types, all the ways to show that normal bodies are beautiful bodies. It’s an important message for sure, but it’s one I feel very left out of.

I looked down at my fake breast stuffed in my corset, seeing every simple hardness and imperfection. I sat there  watching and wondering where the scars were. Where the disabilities were. Where the mastectomy breast were. My body is not in the range of “normal.” While every one is shouting the beauty of stretch marks and cellulite (which lets be honest we ALL have) I wanted to know where were the voices shouting the beauty of disability? The beauty in sheer survival etched in skin. Where were the breast that didn’t bounce because that beautiful softness had been forcefully replaces with hardened implants. Where were the women who can’t dance so gracefully because they are in wheelchairs or amputees? If something happened to anyone of these women in the same way it had happened to me, if parts of them had been slowly cut off and replaced by artificialness would they still be happily shouting about loving their bodies?

It opened my eyes once again, that if I want to see the beauty in these things I have to be the one to put it out there.

I have been asked to be in the local burlesque show coming up. I said yes almost immediately and felt that maybe it would be healing for me because it’s so close to the one year anniversary of my double mastectomy . Today though as I was  driving and thinking about it, I burst into tears. Going up on that stage is me reclaiming my body as my own. It’s saying fuck normal. It’s saying there are many ways to be confident and secure and beautiful. Hopefully soon it will get me back to walking around naked, blind open, windows open for all to see.

 

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